Skip to main content

Full text of "To the sun? a journey through planetary space"

See other formats


% 
















<>s^ 



\V </>„ ' 







.= ^*~^ -^^^ 



,* o>' 



■^, '- 




^C:- ^ 






O. 










/ -f^ 






v^ .\ 

















'^^ -.'"^^"■^ .^\ 



^''-^.'\- 



■■""^r 



V--*^. 









O^ ^ . 



.V ! B . -t 









• 0- .-^ 






sM:k% 






-$-. 



• X^ * 






..\*'^ . " " ' 



1^. 



^. v> 



^.^Vv^^ 












^^ 



V' .\\^ 






^. 



%^^^3S^\" 



•V 






e%<i 



:^\ "^-- v^' : 






,:^^-^S ..^^ 




-m 



f^7~ 



'A)- 















> % 



¥=f 



■^" 



V- y 



xO< 



^0^ 



^ ^ 

':^- *. 



^^o^ 






^^^ ,^^' 






^^-^.r'c^ 






^'^^ 



'" \ 

^ ->^ 






^u 






TO THE SUiN? 



JOURNEY THROUGH PLANETARY SPACE 



FROil THE FRENCH OF 

JULES VERNE 

Author of "Off on a Comet 1" ''From the Earth to the 
Moon," and "All Around the Moon" 



BY 

EDWARD ROTH 



With Thirty-six Full-page Illustrations 



PHILADELPHIA 

DAVID McKAY, Publisher 
23 South Ninth Street 



... ^ 






w^ ««-^ XA 



^^. 






CONTENTS. 



rHAPTBR PAGI 

I. The Challenge, 13 

II. The Captain and the Captain's Man, .... 25 

III. An Interruption both Unseasonable and Unrea- 

sonable, ^S 

IV. Questions Hard to Answer, 47 

V. What 's the Matter with the World ? .... 49 

VI. The New Domain, 72 

VII. Fresh Experiences and Observations, . . . , 89 
VIII. Some of the Dangers of Quitting our Orbit, . 105 

IX. Notes Compared, 127 

X. The Chase After a Continent, 140 

XI. A Discovery of Some Kind, 161 

XII. An Inhospitable Land, 177 

XIII. The Rock Fortress and its Inmates, 196 

XIV. A Startling Discovery, 219 

XV. One Solution of the Riddle, 238 

XVI. A Relic of Provence, 255 

ix 



X CONTENTS. 

CHAPTBR PAGB 

XVII. What was Left of Italy, 269 

XVIII. Visitors, 285 

XIX. A Stiff-Necked Character, 309 

XX. The Fuel Question, 324 

XXI. The Change of Domicile, 340 

XXII. Life at Terre Chaude, 360 

XXIII. On the Track at Last I . 373 

XXIV. A Wild Ride, 387 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



PAGB 

1. The Captain and the Count,. 14 

2. The Captain and his Friends, 18 

3. Ben Zouf, 32 

4. The Gascon Troubadour, 43 

5. The Gourbi in Ruins, 49 

6. The Jump, 60 

7. The Unknown Sea, 70 

8. Zephyr and Galette, 80 

9. Boiling at 148°, 92 

10. The Watch-tower, 109 

11. The Rivals, 131 

12. Procopius, 141 

13. Gazing at the Cruel Sea, 150 

14. The Chapel, 174 

15. The Tomb, 176 

16. An Opening in the Crystal Coast, 195 

17. "General and Major,'* began Pim, 201 

18. Firing the Great Gun, 216 

xi 



Xll LIST OF ILL USTRA TIONS. 

PAGB 

19. The Introduction, 221 

20. General Murphy Observes, 224 

21. The Flag of the Rock, 232 

22. A Waif, 248 

23. Up the Crystal Mountains, 261 

24. A Morsel of Old Earth, 266 

25. Meteors, 272 

26. Nina and Marzy, ... . • c 275 

27. Dutch Isaac, c ..... . 302 

28. The Explanation, 319 

29. Digging the Silo, 326 

30. The Volcano, 335 

31. Central Hall, .... 339 

32. A Pas Seul, 358 

33. " Fling," said the Captain, 372 

34. The Rescue, 384 

35. Look! Look! . 397 

36. Is it too Late? 399 



TO THE SUN? 



CHAPTER I. 

THE CHALLENGE. 



C "CAPTAIN, it does not suit me to surrender/' 
y ^'I regret it extremely, my dear Count; for my 

own case is precisely similar." 
^^ You are in earnest ? '* 
'' Never more in earnest in all my life.'* 
'^But I was first on the ground, Captain.** 
^^ My dear Count, in certain circumstances precedence 

can never be conferred by priority. * * 
'^ Captain, words are tiresome.'* 
'^ Count, I never liked them." 
'^Let us end this argument, Captain." 
''1 shall be delighted, Count." 

*^ The sword is a splendid logician, my dear Captain." 
*'The pistol is hardly inferior, m.y dear Count." 
'^ Accept my card, my dear Captain." 
*' Oblige me by a like favor, dear Count." 

13 



14 TO THE SUN! 

The words had been rapid, delivered in regular cut- 
and-thrust style j but the exchange of cards was quicker, 
if possible. The adversaries glanced at them with a 
ceremonious bow, and prepared to depart. The Cap- 
tain's card bore 

Staff Officer^ 

MOSTAGANEM. 

The Count's, 

Steam-Yacht Dobryna. 

^^ When and where are the seconds to meet, Captain?" 

'^Two o'clock this afternoon, at the Staff Buildings, if 
you have no objections, Count." 

*^None whatever. Captain. The Staff Buildings are 
on the north side of the Place d'Armes at Mostaganem, 
are they not ? ' ' 

^^On the north side. Count. They can't be missed. 
I have the honor to bid you good-morning." 

"■ The honor is mine. Captain." 

Again the adversaries exchanged a most courteous 
salutation. They were turning away, when the Count 
suddenly stopped. 

••Captain," he observed, ^^ don't you think it would 




THE CAPTAIN AND THE COUNT. 



THE CHALLENGE. 1 5 

be just as well to be silent regarding the real cause of 
our meeting? '' 

'^ Exactly my opinion, Count/' 

^^ No name then shall be mentioned ? *' 

^^None whatever/* 

'^But we must find some pretext.*' 

^^ A pretext? Nothing easier. What objection would 
you have to a musical quarrel, Count? *' 

'* Capital idea, Captain. I am crazy on Wagner — 
which, by the way, is true enough.** 

^^ And I on Rossini,** answered the Captain, smiling: 
'^ which is anything but exaggeration.** 

With these words the gentlemen finally turned away, 
having once more exchanged a courteous salute. 

The time of the year was the 3Tst of December; of 
the day, a little before noon. The place, the extremity 
of a little cape on the Algerine coast, between the towns 
of Tenez and Mostaganem, and a few miles north of the 
mouth of the river Sheliff. 

The cape was sixty or seventy feet high, and the blue 
waters of the Mediterranean broke murmuringly on the 
rust-colored rocks at its base. The sun, hidden behind 
a dark cloud, could no longer bespangle every projection 
of the coast by his slanting rays. In fact, very little of 
the coast, or even of the sea, could be seen at the time. 
A dusky haze lay on both. This was, however, nothing 



1 6 TO THE SUN I 

new. For the last few months, strangely persistent mists 
and fogs had been observed all over the world. Every 
one tried to account for them, but the best meteorolo- 
gists acknowledged themselves vanquished. Even on the 
ocean, the fogs had been so dense that the mail-steamers 
were obliged to be blowing whistles and firing cannon 
continually, for fear of a collision. 

Count Timascheff, hastily quitting the Captain, soon 
reached a small four-oared gig that was awaiting him in 
one of the numerous little creeks indenting the shore. 
Hurriedly taking his seat in the stern, in a few minutes 
he was on board a light-built steam-yacht which, with 
main-sheet- sail hauled in and foresail set aweather, was 
lazily swinging at a few cable-lengths off shore. 

The Captain, losing just as little time, quickly signalled 
his Orderly, who had been waiting patiently at a few hun- 
dred yards distance, seated on one horse and holding 
another, a magnificent Arabian, by the bridle. In less 
than a minute, the Captain was on horseback and making 
rapidly for Mostaganem, closely followed by the Orderly, 
who was nearly as well mounted as his master. It was 
half-past twelve as they galloped over the bridge lately 
erected over the Sheliff by the engineering corps. It 
was fully a quarter to two when their horses, white 
with foam and reeking with perspiration, reached the 
Mascara gate, one of the five entrances giving admission 
into the little fortified town. 



THE CHALLENGE. 1/ 

At that time, Mostaganem, the second city in the prov- 
ince of Oran and headquarters of a military subdivision, 
could reckon a population of about fifteen thousand, one- 
fifth at least being French. It was a thriving, industrious 
community, — its confectionery, textile fabrics, mattings, 
and morocco leather work being particularly remarkable, 
and its exports to France of corn, cotton, tobacco, wool, 
cattle, figs, raisins and other fruits, quite considerable. 
Of the Roman port that in the old times had afforded 
such poor protection against the dangerous winds of the 
north and northwest, not a vestige now remained. A 
new and well sheltered harbor occupied its site, where 
ships could rest in perfect safety, and the numerous pro- 
ductions of the Mina and the lower Sheliff countries 
enjoy a most convenient outlet. It was on account of 
the favorable shelter afforded by this harbor that the 
Dobryna had ventured to winter on this dangerous coast. 
For the last two months the Russian flag had been float- 
ing from her gaff, while from her masthead fluttered the 
ensign of the yacht club of France, with the distinguish- 
ing signal M. C. W. T. 

Captain Hector, without a moment's delay, made for 
the barracks, where he soon found a commandant of the 
Second Rifles and a captain of the Eighth Artillery, two 
faithful friends to be trusted for life or death. They 
listened with all becoming gravity to his request, but a 



1 8 TO THE SUN! 

slight smile glittered in their eyes when he spoke of a mu- 
sical discussion as the cause of the threatened encounter^ 

''We may probably arrange matters," suggested the 
commandant. 

''No arrangement is to be thought of/' was Hector's 
curt reply. 

" A few modest concessions on either side would not 
be unbecoming," observed the artillery captain. "Al- 
lowances could be made for difference in musical taste. ' ' 

" No concessions ! no allowances ! " answered Hector, 
testily. "Preferring Wagner to Rossini is a mortal 
offence. Such a dispute the sword alone can settle." 

"Particularly as a sword thrust is not always mortal," 
observed the commandant. 

"And more particularly as a sword thrust is exactly 
what I have made up my mind not to receive," replied 
Captain Hector in a confident tone, that put an end to 
all further discussion. 

Having no time to lose, the two officers proceeded at 
once to the Staff Buildings. Shrewdly guessing the 
cause of the dispute, they never exchanged a word even 
to each other on the subject. The cause of the duel 
was not their affair. Their duty was simple enough — 
to see the other seconds, and make all necessary arrange- 
ments to have the meeting come off with the strictest 
attention to every punctilio in the Code of Honor. 




THE CAPTAIN AND HIS FRIENDS. 



THE CHALLENGE, 1 9 

This was no difficult matter, as they told Hector a few 
hours later. The Count, an aid-de-camp of the Emperor, 
— most Counts are, out of Russia, — had accepted the 
sword, the soldier's weapon j the place of meeting was 
a well-known spot under the cliffs, where the Count 
and the Captain had the interview already described, 
about two miles from the mouth of the Sheliff ; and the 
hour was nine o'clock next morning. 

'^All right!" said Hector, in reply to these details. 
*' Till to-morrow, friends, at nine o'clock." With these 
words, he gave their hands a warm squeeze and hastily 
left the city. 

His friends, having nothing better to do, strolled 
leisurely over to the cafe Zulma, where they passed the 
evening playing piquet, smoking cigars, and sipping 
Moorish coffee. 

For the last two or three weeks, the Captain, having 
charge of a section of the coast survey, had been obliged 
to change his city quarters for a hut near the shore, about 
five miles beyond the Sheliff. The requirements of his 
duty kept his days busy enough, but the long nights 
were so very lonely, that any other officer in the service 
except Hector would have found them intolerable. 
The Captain, however, never made a complaint on 
the subject, and probably even thought that there was 
nothing particularly worth complaining about. 



20 TO THE SUN! 

He now rode back leisurely, but, though the evening 
was getting dark, he soon pulled a scrap of paper out of 
his memorandum-book and began to write something 
on it with as much steadiness as his prancing Arabian 
permitted. What he was trying to write, we have no 
notion of concealing. It was not his will ; far from it : 
it was only poetry. He was getting up what he called 
a rondeau, which he expected to recite with great effect , 
on his next visit to Oran, where about a month ago he 
had met a beautiful young English widow, whose violet 
eyes he had been dreaming of ever since. Having heard 
her express enthusiastic admiration for Tennyson, and 
noticing that her disposition was of a gentle, retiring 
nature, he concluded that the road to her heart lay 
through poetry, and to poetry accordingly he now de- 
voted every spare moment. His success, however, had 
so far by no means kept pace with his expectations. 
Though he understood English very well, English rhymes 
and above all English spelling he found exceedingly 
puzzling. This evening, in particular, whether from his 
interview with the Count or the unaccountable state of 
the weather, he felt himself to be in anything but the 
vein. 

^'No matter," he cried, gayly. ^'Let me stick to it, 
and I shall do something. Any one could scribble 
French verse, but English poetry from a Frenchman — 



THE CHALLENGE. 21 

show me the woman who could resist that ! not to talk 
of a young widow on the Algerine coast, where strangers 
are not as plentiful as mosquitoes. Let's see how much 
we Ve done so far ! " 
And he commenced : 

"STANZAS TO THE HONORABLE MRS. CHETWODE, 

IN REPLY 

To HER Charming Question, * Why should we Love ? ' 

"We love, my pensive saint, my Peri coy, 
For love's sweet sake : 
To barter gloomy thought for smiles and joy ; 
To cure heart-ache. " 

''But here I stick. Since yesterday morning I can i 
think of another line. I like the swing of my verses; 
but if I don't do better this evening, I'm afraid I shall 
have to recast them in some simpler form. Halloo ! Ben 
Zouf!" 

'^ Present!" replied the Captain's Orderly, riding up 
quickly within easy talking range. 

'* Did you ever write any verses? " 

'* Never, Captain. In our school we never got be- 
yond long division." 

'^I mean, when you were in England." 

^'I never made any English verses . myself, Captain, 
and for a good reason. But I learned some very pretty 
ones while I was in London." 



22 TO THE SUN! 

'' Indeed ! How was that ? ' ' 

''You see, Captain, we lived near the Paik. My 
orders were to have the General's horse ready every 
morning at the door at eleven o'clock. I was always 
there to the second, but the General seldom left the house 
before twelve, I never felt the hour tiresome. On the 
contrary. A few minutes after eleven every morning a 
neighboring door opened and out came a young lady in 
charge of two children on their way to the Park. She 
was a beauty. Captain ! but she never cast an eye at me. 
I soon found out she was from the country, and that the 
reason why she looked so sad was the loss of both her 
parents. I then determined to write to her something 
highly respectful, but original and touching — but par- 
don me. Captain, I'm no doubt wearying you by my 
long rigmarole." 

''On the contrary, Ben Zouf ! I find your Britannic 
idyl charming; intensely interesting ! Go on I " 

"Well, Captain, I was recommended to see a journal- 
ist who writes poetry for the Times — the great London 
paper, you know. I did see him. He knew but little 
French, I knew but little English; still we soon came 
to an understanding. She was as beautiful as an angel — 
I told him to spare no pains, and I'd spare no money. 
I wanted to have something respectful, original, and 
touching, you know, Captain. Without something to 



THE CHALLENGE, 23 

touch the heart, poetry, in my opmion, is good for 
nothing. ' ' 

'' Quite right, Ben Zouf. The touchstone of poetry is 
its power to sweep the heart-strings ! Pray, continue. ' ^ 

'^ The journalist told me he knew my wants exactly, 
and next day he proved it. The verses he brought were 
so fine, so splendid, so touching that 1 got them by 
heart at once, and have never forgotten them." 

'^ Let us hear them." 

Ben Zouf recited his verses in a voice quivering with 

emotion : 

" The rose is red, the violet 's blue, 
I am thy sweetheart, fond and true; 
If you love me as I love you, 
No knife can cut our love in two ! " 

**Ha! ha! ha! " cried the Captain, in a roar of laugh- 
ter. ^^ Touching, original, powerful, is no name for 
your verses. Epic, grand, sublime they should be 
called. I hope you paid your poet well for such 
an effort." 

'^I paid like a prince. Captain!" answered Ben; 
''so at least the poet said when I slipped a half-crown 
into his hands. I was a poor man," added Ben, mod- 
estly, ''but I adored originality. Give me originality, 
said I, and hang the expense ! " 

*' Right again, Ben Zouf," laughed the Captain, 



24 TO THE SUN! 

quickening his horse's pace a little, and resuming 
his soliloquy. ^^ The English poet had about as much 
originality as myself — more I think — let me see if 
lis floral hint don't improve my dull lines." 

He made the change, and then read aloud the im- 
proved version : 

" We love, my witching rose, my violet coy, 
For love's sweet sake; 
To barter gloomy thought for smiles and joy, 
To cure heart-ache — " 

But beyond this the Captain's poetic inspiration 
utterly failed to carry him. After another quarter 
of an hour's ineffectual efforts to compose a single 
line, he closed his memorandum-book impatiently, 
set spurs to his horse, and reached the hut shortly 
after dark, closely followed by his faithful Orderly. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE CAPTAIN AND THE CAPTAIN's MAN. 

AT the date of the beginning of our story any 
one curious about the subject, by calling at the 
war office, Paris, might find the following record, in 
Register 1716, page 395 : 

SERVADAC (HECTOR), born July 19, 18—, at 
Saint Trelody, district of Lesparre, Department of 
Gironde. 

Patrimony, 1200 francs a year. 

In the service, 14 years, 3 months, 5 days. 

Details of Services : School of St. Cyr, 2 years ; 
Staff School of Application, 2 years ; in the Eighty- 
seventh of the Line, 2 years ; in the Third Chasseurs, 
2 years ; in Algeria, 7 years. 

Campaigns: Japan, Soudan. 

Position: Captain of the Staff Corps, at Mos- 
taganem. 

Decorations: Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, 
March 13, 18 — . 

Servadac was now thirty years of age. An orphan, 

25 



26 TO THE SUN ! 

without family ; of small patrimony ; reckless of money, 
but keen for glory ; generous to a fault ; like most Gas- 
cons a little Quixotic ; fonder of attack than defence, 
but always ready for either; of preeminent courage, 
though without the slightest scratch to show it ; true 
sprout of a chivalrous stock of ancestors, who never 
seemed happier than when in trouble, the Captain 
seemed to be one of those favored mortals that had 
some kind fairy for a godmother, who predestined him 
from birth for something altogether beyond the career 
of ordinary humanity. 

Physically, he was quite a good-looking young fel- 
low. Five feet nine in height, of sinewy, graceful 
limbs, curly hair as black as jet, perfect hands and 
feet, silken mustache with a martial twist, of dark-blue 
eyes gleaming with an honest look of fearlessness 
and good-humor, the Captain seemed formed to please, 
and we can say truly, always did please, though appar- 
ently seldom aware of it. 

We must admit, however, that Servadac was not 
overstocked with book learning. '^We are no skulk- 
ers,** is a common expression among artillery officers, 
and in the main they are correct. The Captain could 
not say this. At Saint Cyr he ^^ skulked" fearfully — 
English being almost the only branch to which he de- 
voted anything like real attention. At the Staff School 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN, 2^ 

of Application, in Paris, his industry was just as in- 
different — English ^^ poetry'* alone appearing to have 
my charm for his few spare moments. Still, his won- 
derful facility for picking up odds and ends of infor- 
mation and rapidly assimilating them with little or no 
trouble, had enabled him to quit the School and enter 
on the Staff Corps with some credit, more, in fact, 
than fell to the share of some of his comrades who 
had been the most distinguished graduates of St. Cyr. 
This shows the nature of the man — eminently practi- 
cal, only slightly acquisitional. Besides sketching and 
drawing with considerable skill, the Captain under- 
stood the art of horsemanship in an eminent degree. 
To this day the young men at St. Cyr talk traditionally 
of his marvellous feat in mastering Le Gaillard, Uncle 
Tom' s terrible successor, that had broken more limbs 
and endangered more necks than any five horses to- 
gether since the starting of the school in 1808. 

His military reputation stood very high. He had 
been several times complimented by name in presence 
of the whole army for unusual fearlessness and presence 
of mind. One instance of this kind will be enough 
to record. 

He was one day leading a company through the 
trenches, before a besieged town, when he came to a 
spot where the crest of the earthwork, struck by several 



28 TO THE SUN! 

shells, had given way for a space five or six feet in 
length by one or two in depth. The soldiers, seeing 
that the mound was not high enough to afford suffi- 
cient protection against the bullets hissing around 
them like hail, naturally hesitated to dash past the 
opening. Captain Hector instantly took his course. 
Clambering up the earthwork, he threw himself across 
the breach, which his body exactly filled. 

'' Pass now ! " he cried ; ^^ but be quick ! *' 

The company passed, a storm of bullets roaring 
over their heads, but not a man hurt, not even the 
Captain, whose preservation seemed little short of 
miraculous. 

With the exception of two campaigns in Japan and 
Soudan, the Captain's services had been confined to 
Algeria ever since quitting the School of Application. 

As already mentioned, he was now discharging the 
duties of Staff Officer at Mostaganem. Lately ap- 
pointed to some topographical work on that portion 
of the coast between Cape Tenez and the mouth of 
the Sheliff, he had installed himself in a miserable 
little hut, a gourbi the Moors called it, where the 
accommodations were by no means luxurious. The 
Captain was not the man to complain about trifles. 
He loved liberty and independence dearly, with 
plenty of air and sunlight. These he had now to 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN. 29 

fiis hearths content, and these he thoroughly enjoyed, 
whether pacing the shore to measure his distances, 
climbing the cliffs to make his observations, or, 
mounted on his fiery Arabian, careering along the 
vast terraces of the Dahra to enjoy the ocean breezes 
and magnificent scenery. Such a life he was loath to 
exchange, and therefore he took no extraordinary 
pains to hurry through his work with more haste 
than was absolutely necessary. He even found time 
now and then to take a run to Oran, to show him- 
self at the General's weekly reception, or to Algiers, 
where he never failed to appear at the Governor's 
grand monthly ball. 

It was on one of these occasions that he met the 
beautiful Mrs. Chetwode, the lady in whose honor the 
famous ^'Stanzas," now in a state of incubation, had 
been undertaken. She was the widowed sister of a 
French gentleman's wife, w^hose delicate health had 
compelled herself and her family to spend their win- 
ters on the genial Alger ine coast. Mrs. Chetwode 
w^as still young, though it was now more than four 
years since her husband had been lost in a sudden 
squall, while yachting off Sardinia. Several of the 
crew had perished, and Mrs. Chetwode had been in 
such danger, that for some time her recovery was 
considered extremely doubtful. The terrible catas- 



30 TO THE SUN, 

trophe she had never forgotten. It made her reserved, 
pensive, almost melancholy. Her eyes seldom flashed 
with their old merriment, and the roses seemed to have 
fled her cheeks forever. All this rendered her only 
more attractive to Captain Hector. Her silence never 
wearied him. His exuberant spirits floated on more 
joyous wings, whenever he tried to dissipate her seri- 
ousness. These attempts, it must be remarked, were 
tolerably successful, and it was very seldom indeed 
that the Captain tore himself away without leaving 
the charming widow's eyes brighter and her lips 
beaming with a gentle smile. Still, as the closest ob- 
servations had so far failed to detect the slightest sign 
of any marked preference in his regard, he had not 
yet been able to prevail on himself to ask the momen- 
tous question. He was aware that he had plenty of 
rivals, among others the Russian Count, the intimate 
friend of the lady's late husband — their yachting 
mania connecting them with a very strong link of 
mutual attraction. But the Captain did not know 
that this very circumstance had completely destroyed 
all the Count's chances — the beautiful widow, ever 
since the accident, entertaining an ineradicable hor- 
ror of yachts and everything connected with them. 
On the contrary, the Captain dreaded more from the 
Count than from all the other rivals put together. 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN 31 

These were mostly Frenchmen, Germans, or Italians, 
who, if they spoke English at all, spoke it so absurdly 
that they often made the demure widow break out 
into little ripples of merry laughter at the identical 
moment when they counted on being most impressive. 
But the Count was a splendid linguist — equally at home 
in most of the languages of Europe. The lady herself 
often declared openly that she had never heard more 
elegant and stately English than fell from Count Tim- 
ascheff's lips. Such an observation was, of course, 
all gall and wormwood to our poor Captain, who, 
though he spoke English rather indifferently, really 
understood it very well, and even prided himself on 
it as his greatest accomplishment. It was to coun- 
termine the Count on his own vantage-ground that 
he had undertaken the appalling task of addressing 
his lady love a poem in her own language — a feat 
which, if successful, would not leave the Count a leg 
to stand on. It was this great, but unfounded, dread 
of the Count's superiority that had also made him 
more desirous to measure swords with his rival in 
deadly combat than he would have been in almost any 
other circumstances. For the Gascon Captain, with all 
his hot blood and brave words, had not a particle of 
malice in his composition, and in his calm moments 
would readily forgive his bitterest foe. 



32 TO THE SUN! 

Both belligerents, as we already know, though thirsty 
for each other's blood, had never forgotten that they 
were gentlemen. However the duel might end, the 
lady's fair fame could not be compromised. Her name 
had been religiously respected. 

Captain Hector's only companion in the gourbi was 
our friend, Ben Zouf. 

The Captain's man, in every sense of the term, 
Ben would not change his position for that of aid- 
de-camp to the Governor-General of Algiers. But 
the more utterly and completely devoid he was of 
ambition on his own account, the more keenly sus- 
ceptible he felt it his duty to be on that of his master. 
The Captain's slow promotion he often growled about, 
and openly professed himself to be the bitter foe of 
partiality and ingratitude. The first thing he did 
every morning, before brushing his master's garments, 
was to see if a few grains of spinach seed had not 
sprouted up during the night in the shape of an epau- 
let on the left shoulder of the Captain's uniform. 

The name Ben Zouf might make you imagine that 
he was a Zouave, or a Turco, or at least a native of 
Algeria. He was nothing of the kind. He was a 
full-blooded Parisian, and his real name was Lawrence. 
Ben Zouf was probably a whim of the master's, cer- 
tainly not of the man's. Ben would no more think 




BEN ZOUF. 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN. 33 

of changing his name than of denying the place of 
his nativity. Than this we can think of no stronger 
comparison. For if any one ever was proud of his 
birthplace, it was Ben Zouf. This hallowed spot 
was not only Paris, but Montmartre j and it was not 
only Montmartre, but the summit of Montmartre, 
midway between the tower of Solferino and the Ga- 
lette Windmill. Any one fortunate enough to be born 
under such exceptional conditions would have the 
right to be proud of his native hill and to look on 
it as the eighth wonder of the world. This at least 
was Ben's opinion, for in his eyes Montmartre was 
the finest mountain on earth, and the Montmartre dis- 
trict the finest district in Paris. He had travelled much, 
and had seen a little in every division of the world, 
except Australia. He had got a glimpse at many of 
its wonders, but none of them could approach his 
beloved Montmartre. Hadn't it a church equal to 
the cathedral of Burgos? quarries equal to those of 
Carrara, or Pentelicus? a basin — well, a basin hardly 
inferior to the basin of the Mediterranean? wind- 
mills livelier, noisier and far more picturesque than 
the windmills of Holland ? a tower that leaned over 
nearly as much as the famous tower of Pisa? a bit 
of virgin forest — a remnant of the old Celtic times — 
not to be surpassed in age or wildness by anything of 



34 TO THE SUN! 

the kind in America? and, finally, a mountain, a real 
momitain, which nothing but the envious tongue of 
jealousy could desecrate into a mound ? Yes ; you 
might hack Ben into a thousand pieces before you 
could make him confess that Montmartre was not one 
of the mountain wonders of the world. In one of his 
very excited moments, he even said that Mont Blanc 
was only a pimple beside Montmartre. But from 
this dangerous ground he soon retreated, and did 
not care to approach it again. ^'Waiving for the pres- 
ent,'* he would say, '' the unimportant and empty ques- 
tion of mere altitude, where else in the whole world 
could you find such an astonishing collection of the 
works both of Nature and Art combined, in any one 
single point? " 

' ' Nowhere else ! ' * was the triumphant reply with 
which he always closed the argument, for Ben would 
never listen for an instant to any one disposed to 
think his opinions regarding the excellent points of 
Montmartre somewhat exaggerated. 

He had now but one idea, one hope — to return to 
Montmartre and end his days on the sacred ground 
where they had begun — of course in company with 
his Captain. Accordingly, on every occasion, favor- 
able or not, Servadac's ears had been so dinned with 
the changes that Ben would keep on eloquently 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN ^j 

ringing on the peerless beauties accumulated in the 
Eighteenth Arrondissement of Paris, that he was of 
late beginning to entertain a serious horror even of 
the very name of Montmartre. Ben had a surmise 
of this, but, nevertheless, he was quite confident of 
being able to convert the Captain in the long run. 
At all events, he would never desert him. His time 
of military service had expired. He was now per- 
fectly free. He had already served two terms, but 
without rising to any higher grade than that of simple 
private of the Third Cavalry. He was even thinking 
of quitting the service altogether, at the age of twenty- 
eight, when he was unexpectedly promoted to the rank 
of Captain Servadac's man. This gave him at last 
some interest in military matters. He went through 
two campaigns with his officer. He fought by his side 
on several occasions, and once even so bravely that 
his name had been sent in for the Cross of the Legion 
of Honor. But he refused this decoration, prefer- 
ring the Captain's service. If his Captain had saved 
Ben's life in Japan, Ben had had the good fortune 
m Soudan to save his Captain's. These are things 
not easily forgotten. 

You have now the chief reasons why Ben Zouf 
still devoted to the Captain's service a pair of arms 
steeped to the marrow in muscular vigor, an iron 



36 TO THE SUN! 

frame case-hardened to every climate, a physical 
strength great enough to have him nicknamed the 
'^ Rampart of Montmartre," and, in short, a courage 
to confront any extremity, and a devotion to shrink 
from no danger. If not an ^^ original'' poet, like his 
master, he was a walking cyclopedia of all the jokes, 
smart slang, comical stories, jests, quibbles, and ^'good 
'uns'' in general, that form the staple of camp con- 
versation, but which, in general, are absolutely un- 
translatable into English. These he would let off 
by the hour to any one willing to listen to him, and 
with a native drollery that his master at times found 
irresistibly facetious. 

The Captain fully understood the worth of his man, 
and thoroughly appreciated his excellent qualities. He 
would, it is true, occasionally give his prejudices a 
little dig; but for this he more than atoned by the 
pretty things he would say at moments when Ben 
was far from expecting them. 

With a little instance of this kind we shall conclude 
the present chapter. 

Ben had been one evening fully an hour riding his 
hobby furiously up and down the sides and along the 
summit of Montmartre, when he suddenly interrupted 
himself to investigate the effect his eloquence had pro- 
duced on the Captain. 



THE CAPTAIN AND HIS MAN. 37 

After a few seconds' silence, the latter observed : 

^'Ben Zouf, there's one thing more left for you to 
say about Montmartre." 

''What 's that, Captain?" asked Ben, timidly, taught 
by experience to be always on the lookout for a sJy 
thrust. 

*' Paris is a great city, Ben Zouf ! " 

''The greatest city in the world. Captain, except 
Rome ! " 

"Do you know, Ben Zouf, that your Montmartre is 
really higher than the two highest mountains of Rome 
piled on each other? " 

"Oh, Captain, you don't say so ! " cried poor Ben, 
in an agony of joy, while a gleam of mingled pride 
and affection flashed from his brimming eyes. 

From that day his "mountain" .and his master's 
images had been engraved so deeply and inseparably 
on his heart, that the grateful creature could nev^er 
'link of one without immediately recalling the other. 



CHAPTER III. 

AN INTERRUPTION BOTH UNSEASONABLE AND 
UNREASONABLE. 

AGOURBI is simply a kind of open framework 
hut, covered on the top and sides by a peculiar 
straw, called by the natives ^^driss." In architecture, 
it ranks somewhat higher than the Arab tent, but far 
lower than a Mexican adobe or an American log-house 
The Captain's gourbi was in fact no better than a 
mere hovel, which would never have been able to 
accommodate its guests but for having been backed up 
by an old military post-house, solidly built of stone, and 
now serving as sleeping place for Ben Zouf and the 
two horses. Sometime before this being occupied by 
a corps of engineers, it still contained a quantity of 
their tools, such as picks, spades, shovels, and other 
implements of the kind. 

The Captain and his man, never hard to please, 
submitted to the irksomeness of their present quarters 
without a murmur, looking on it as merely temporary 
and bound to come to an end in a month or two. 

38 



UNSEASONABLE AND UNREASONABLE. 39 

•^With a little philosophy and a good stomach, 
there is not much difficulty in getting along any- 
where/* the Captain would occasionally observe when 
contemplating longer than usual the sorry accommo- 
dations offered by his present abode. This reflection 
was a sovereign consoler. Philosophy being the only 
pocket-money a Gascon never runs out of, the Cap- 
tain had always a good stock on hand. Nor did hi^ 
stomach trouble him much. Ben said it was almost 
as good as his own, which, as everybody knew, w^as 
a regular ostrich's, capable at a pinch of extracting 
almost as much nourishment out of nails and gravel 
as out of roast beef and spring chickens. 

Talking of food, we may as well here state that oui 
friends had a month's supply of provisions, a tank full 
of good sweet water, and plenty of food for the horses. 
Besides, this western portion of the plain lying be- 
tween Tenez and the m.outh of the Sheliff is fully 
as rich as the best portion of the famous Metidja. 
Game is very abundant, and it is hardly necessary 
to say that as long as a staff officer does not forget 
his theodolite, he can carry his fowling-piece wher- 
ever he pleases. 

In less than a quarter of an hour after his return, 
the Captain was dining with a furious appetite. Ben 
Zouf w^as a famous hand in the kitchen. No one could 



40 TO THE SUNf 

ever complain of the insipidity of his dishes. He 
salted, peppered^ vinegared, mustarded, pickled, in 
the high military style. None of your dainty tid- 
bits for him or his master. They had stomachs of 
the cast-iron kind, latest patent, warranted to stand 
the hottest condiments, and proof against anything 
short of aqua for tis. 

Dinner over, and while Ben was still industriously 
stowing away in what he called his abdominal cup- 
board the remains of the repast — just to prevent 
waste, as he said — the Captain, lighting a cigar, 
went out and began to take a quiet stroll up and 
down on the edge of the cliff. But he was soon 
brought to a stand-still. Though he was never a 
very close observer of cosmical phenomena, the un- 
usually strange appearance of the sky that evening 
struck him at once with some surprise. 

No star was visible, but a lurid reddish light lay 
all round him, of which he looked in vain for the 
cause. To the west, beyond the bay of Mostaganem, 
nothing could be seen except the thick, heavy cloud 
masses, behind which the sun had set a few hours be- 
fore. In front, directly north, the view was equally 
limited, the heaving, phosphorescent sea being no- 
where visible beyond a quarter of a mile. Nothing 
at all could be seen east and south. But, over head, 



UNSEASONABLE AND UNREASONABLE. 4 1 

through the dark misty atmosphere, a pale, noiseless, 
dusky kind of light seemed to be struggling, tinging 
the clouds faintly like a distant reflection of Vesuvius 
in eruption. What made this strange light? It was 
not the aurora borealis, for it revealed neither the 
clean-cut fringes so well known in the arctic regions 
nor the flashing corruscations so often witnessed in 
the temperate zone. Besides, the latitude, ^(^^^ N., was 
altogether too low to permit the present steady and 
persistent meteoric display to be attributed to an efl'ect 
of the shimmering, restless northern lights. Even an 
experienced meteorologist, therefore, would have been 
decidedly puzzled if asked to account off-hand scien- 
tifically for the luculent phenomena penetrating the 
sombre clouds so mysteriously this last night of the 
year. 

But the Captain was no meteorologist, experienced 
or otherwise. Since his school-days he had probably 
not looked twice into his Course of Cos7nography. In 
any case, on this particular evening, he felt himself 
little disposed to indulge in physical investigations. 
He soon resumed his slow promenade, puffing his 
cigar, thinking probably over his ^* stanzas,'' or, still 
more probably, over his approaching meeting with 
Count Timascheff. If his thoughts dwelt on the latter 
oibject, it must be acknowledged that they were by 



42 TO THE SUN! 

no means of a bitter nature. The rivals were far from 
hating each other. They fought, not to kill each 
other, but merely to simplify an entanglement in 
which two were one too many. Nothing, therefore, 
disturbed the Captain's thoughts regarding the Count. 
He looked on him as a highly honorable gentleman, 
and it is quite probable that the Count, in his turn, 
held the Captain in the greatest possible estimation. 

About ten o'clock the Captain returned to the 
gourbiy whose single apartment contained a camp bed, 
a little v/ork-table with adjustable arrangement, and a 
few boxes that discharged equally well the double debt 
of seats and bureaus. As already mentioned, it was 
in the old stone guard-house, next door, that Ben not 
only kept the horses but cooked the meals and also 
took his regular nap of twelve hours at a stretch, his 
bed being no better, as he said himself, than the 
softest side of a good oaken plank. 

The Captain, unusually wakeful, took a seat at the 
table, and, mechanically seizing a compass in one hand 
and a blue pencil in the other, began to trace on a 
piece of drawing-paper some lines in zigzag, which, 
candor compels us to admit, by no means recalled the 
severe contour of a topographical sketch. 

Ben Zouf, stretched in a corner, was waiting orders 
to retire, and meanwhile was calmly digesting his com- 




THE GASCON TROUBADOR. 



UNSEASONABLE AND UNREASONABLE, 43 

fortable and abundant supper. He was even beginning 
to drop off into a gentle doze, as he had often done 
before, when he found that his efforts in this direction 
were decidedly thwarted by his master's most singular 
and unaccountable proceedings. 

He started up and looked at him. What was the 
matter? Never before had he seen him flourish the 
compass so wildly, dash down his pencil-marks so 
hurriedly, or blot them out so recklessly. Was he 
working against time in dotting off some important 
triangulations, or was he — yes, was he only — writing 
poetry ? Ben had guessed right. The staff officer was 
now replaced by the Gascon troubadour. But the 
troubadour soon became the desperate soldier, fighting 
fiercely in the very thickest of the battle. He worked, 
he struggled, he gesticulated, he mouthed. The labor 
seemed terrible, but- the success, so far, indifferent 
enough. 

At last the rebellious words seemed somewhat willing 
to obey orders, and fell into line. The Captain's fin- 
gers moved like lightning, as he wrote : 

" Life without Love is but a clouded day, 
A starless night — " 

*' Poetry, or I'm a Dutchman!" muttered Ben, 
hardly suppressing his voice from surprise. '^ Who 'd 



44 TO THE SUN! 

have expected such a thing from the Captain? He 
turn poet ! He ! To be a good poet you must be good 
for nothing else. The Captain — a sketcher, certainly, 
and a marcher, and a rider, and a commander, and a 
fighter ! — but a poet — bah ! ' ' and Ben shrugged his 
shoulders and shook his head in a manner anything 
but complimentary to the Captain's poetical talents. 
^^ Can it be that little English widow?" he went on, 
hardly caring whether he was heard or not. ^^What 
taste, my heaven, what taste ! Those widows bewitch 
the men ! Look at him now, running up and down 
there like a hen hunting up her lost chicken ! " 

Sure enough, the Captain was now furiously striding 
up and down, a prey to the full blast of poetic inspi- 
ration. 

After a few minutes he suddenly stopped, and down 
went two more lines : 

" His glorious presence makes the grave heart gay, 
The sad eye bright.'' 

Then the Captain began marching up and down again. 

^' Writing poetry to a woman, especially to a widow," 
resumed Ben, sententiously, and with a tone of convic- 
tion founded on experience, ^^acts like a two-edged 
sword. It cuts both ways. It makes the woman vain 
and silly. It makes the man foolish, and, what is worse, 



UNSEASONABLE AND UNREASONABLE. 45 

exceedingly selfish. For a proof, look at the Captain 1 
At heart the best-natured man in the world, yet for 
the last hour he never bestows a thought on a poor 
fellow dying to get a wink of sleep ! Let us wake 
him up ! " Here Ben was suddenly seized with a fit 
of mingled coughing, hemming, and sneezing, that was 
too well done to be quite natural. 

*^What the fury's the matter, Ben Zouf?" roared 
the Captain, quite startled. 

^^I don't really know, Captain," answered Ben, with 
a fearful yawn. ^^Only the nightmare, perhaps," he 
added, with a demure glance at his master. 

'^Hang your nightmare, you sleepy lubber! You 
have ruined the fine flow of my versification ! Ben 
Zouf ! " he added, in a tone of command. 

'^ Present ! " cried Ben, jumping up nimbly, and put- 
ting one hand to his cap and the other to the seam 
of his pantaloons. 

^* Attention! Strict attention till further orders! 
I'm approaching the end of my stanzas! " 

Then, in the full tones of wrapt inspiration, he re- 
peated as he wrote down the following lines : 

** Then waste not woefully, my sweetest saint, 

Thy life's best years 
In ranging mem'ry's halls with bootless plaint 

And endless tears. 
I swear — " 



46 TO THE SUN! 

What the Captain swore will never be known to 
mortal man. The oath was never pronounced. Be- 
fore another word could be uttered, a sudden shock 
struck both Captain and Man to the earth with tre- 
mendous violence 



CHAPTER IV. 

QUESTIONS HARD TO ANSWER. 

WHY, at this very instant, to any one that hap- 
pened to be in these regions of the Mediterra- 
nean on this particular night, was the horizon so sud- 
denly and strangely modified that even the most ex- 
perienced mariner could not have recognized the cir- 
cular line where the earth and sky seem to meet ? 

Why, at this very moment, would he have seen the 
sea lift its waters to a height never before paralleled, 
not even deemed possible in the annals of science ? 

Why, at this very moment, would he have heard the 
solid earth rend and tear itself asunder with the crash- 
ing din of ten thousand pieces of artillery? 

What could have produced that furious seething of 
the mighty waters, dashed wildly together in unknown 
depths? Or those wild screams of severed masses of 
air louder than a cyclone's shrieking blast? 

Why flashed through space a sudden and extraordi- 
nary splendor, intenser than the rutilant figurations 
of the aurora borealis, lighting up the whole heavens 

47 



48 TO THE SUN! 

instantaneously, and for a moment eclipsing every star 
of every magnitude ? 

Why, at this very moment, did a part of the Medi- 
terranean present the appearance, for one instant, of 
a yawning chasm of black walls and bottomless depths, 
filled, in the next, with raging waters, fuming, hissing, 
and violently convulsed ? 

Why, at this very moment, did the moon suddenly 
seem to have grown of such enormous size as to ap- 
pear to be ten times nearer the earth than she really is ? 

Or was it the moon at all, but rather some spheroid, 
vast, glittering, unknown to cosmographers, that had 
flared for a moment across the sky with dazzling radi- 
ance, and was then instantly swallowed up in a womb 
of pitch-black clouds ? 

What possible phenomenon could have caused the 
terrible cataclysm that convulsed with such violence 
at once earth, sea, sky, and space? 

Who could answer these questions? Was any one 
on earth able to answer them? The suddenness and 
velocity of the catastrophe made a direct answer un- 
likely. But, what is more to our purpose, on the sur- 
face of the strange spheroid that had been just whisked 
off the earth like a lamb in an eagle's claws, was there 
any human being at all left alive to tell the tale of the 
marvellous journey on which it had just started ? 




THE GOURBI IN RUINS. 



CHAPTER V. 
what's the matter with the world? 

THE stupendous phenomenon alluded to in our 
last chapter, whatever else it might have done, 
did not seem to have produced much change in the 
portion of the Algerine coast bounded on the west 
by the Bay of Mostaganem, and on the north by 
the Mediterranean Sea. The fertile plain indeed 
may have looked unusually ^^ hummocked,'* here and 
there, and the sea, no doubt, appeared to be unnatu- 
rally agitated, but neither the peculiar windings of the 
shore, nor the general arrangement of the overhanging 
cliffs, appeared to have undergone any decided change 
in their physical aspect. The guard-house was still 
standing, and, with the exception of a few slight 
cracks, apparently as safe and sound as ever. But 
the gourbi was as flat as a card -castle blown over by 
a child's breath, and its two former occupants were 
still lying senseless and motionless underneath the 
wreck. The lamp had been fortunately extinguished 
by some accident before it had time to set anything 
on fire. 



50 TO THE SUN! 

In about two hours after receiving the stunning shock 
which had felled him so unceremoniously to the earth, 
Captain Hector recovered his consciousness. His 
senses came back only by very slow degrees, and the 
first words he uttered were : 

'^ I swear — '* 

Then, quickly interrupting himself as the strange- 
ness of his situation flashed upon him, he asked in an 
impatient tone : 

"Halloo ! what the fury is the matter?'' 

Finding that no reply came to this question, he 
tried to sit up, and having at last with some difficulty 
extricated his .head from the straw and debris covering 
it, he tried to look around with eyes full of wonder. 

" The gourbi down ! '' he exclaimed, in great amaze- 
ment. "Some whirlwind then must have swept over 
us!'' 

He ran his fingers rapidly over his body. Noth- 
ing broken, nothing sprained, no blood, not even 
a scratch. 

"But my Orderly!" he suddenly cried, looking 
around with great eagerness. "Is he all right, too? 
BenZouf!" 

"Present!" cried Ben, poking his head through a 
hole in the straw. 

" Have you any idea of what has befallen us, Ben 
Zouf?" asked the Captain. 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC, ^\ 

"Seems to me, Captain/' replied Ben, speaking 
slowly and deliberately, ^^as if we're near the end 
of our last campaign." 

^^ Fudge, Ben Zouf. It's nothing but a whirlwind, 
a little whirlwind." 

'^Well, a whirlwind it is!" replied the Orderly, 
with the resignation of a philosopher. ^^ Nothing bro- 
ken, I hope, Captain ? " 

^^ Nothing whatever, Ben Zouf. Everything sound 
as a bell. Jump up ! " 

In an instant both were on their feet, clearing away 
the wreck and picking out their instruments, arms, and 
furniture from the rubbish. Very little real damage, 
they soon had the satisfaction of learning, had been 
done to anything. 

** What time is it, Ben Zouf?" asked the Captain, 
trying to arrange his instruments in something like 
order. 

''Eight o'clock, at least," replied Ben, glancing at 
the sun, now pretty high above the horizon. 

''Eight?" 

" Can't be a single second less, Captain." 

"Impossible ! " 

"Impossible or not, Captain, it is full time to start." 

"To start? What for?" 

" The meeting." 



52 TO THE SUN I 

''What meeting?'* 

''With the Count/' 

"Oh, by Jove!" cried the Captain, "I was near 
forgetting all about it ! " 

He looked a few moments at his watch, and then 
exclaimed : 

"What's that you're saying about eight o'clock, Ben 
Zouf ? You're crazy. It 's hardly two o'clock, yet ! " 

"Two in the morning, or two in the afternoon?" 
asked Ben, with another glance at the sun. 

Before answering, the Captain held the watch awhile 
to his ear. 

"My watch is all right," he then observed. "It 
goes as well as ever. ' ' 

"So does the sun," replied the Orderly. 

" Certainly," said the Captain, now looking carefully 
at the sun, " to judge by its height above the horizon — 
Ah ! by all the wines that ever grew in Medoc ! — ' ' 

" What 's up, now. Captain ? " 

" Could it be eight o'clock in the evening? " 

" In the evening! " 

"Yes! Don't you see the sun is in the west, and 
going to set?" 

" Set ? Not at all. Captain. The sun is getting up, 
getting up as lively as a conscript at the first tap of the 
morning drum. Only look ! while we 're talking, he 's 
already got a little higher above the horizon." 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC, 53 

**The sun rising in the west ! '* muttered the Captain 
to himself. ^' There *s no denying it. Can I be really 
losing my senses? " 

The fact was unquestionable. It admitted no dispute 
whatever. The bright king of day, reflected in the 
waters of the Bay, was absolutely climbing the very 
same western vault of heaven where from time im- 
memorial he had always and invariably got through 
the second half of his diurnal journey. 

Captain Hector was astounded. A phenomenon of 
this kind was never heard of before ; it was utterly in- 
explicable. It actually reversed the very first and fun- 
damental element of all astronomy, namely, the direc- 
tion from west to east of the earth's daily movement 
on her axis. 

It was enough to turn his brain. Could the impossi- 
ble then be true ? If there had only been a member 
of the Astronomical Bureau at hand, how eagerly the 
Captain would have questioned him ! How intently 
would he have listened to the abstrusest calculations ! 
But now, thrown as he was entirely on his own re- 
sources, after a few moments' reflection, he abruptly 
cut the matter short, observing : 

^' Well ! after all, it 's none of my business. Let the 
astronomers settle it among them ! I must say, how- 
ever, I shall be somewhat curious to learn from the 



54 TO THE SUN I 

papers how they will extricate themselves from the 
snarl. Come on, Ben Zouf!" he continued, turning 
to his Orderly; ^^ whatever has taken place, even 
though the whole architecture of the heaven and earth 
has been turned topsy-turvy, one thing must be done. 
I must be the first man on the ground. The Count 
must never say I kept him waiting." 

*^ Could n't you manage to take a little breakfast be- 
fore starting ? ' ' asked the Orderly. 

^'No time ! " replied the Captain, already far ahead 
on the road. '' Forward ! " 

Ben obeyed orders at once, though the Captain's 
answer gave, him anything but satisfaction. The truth 
is, his master's whole manner made him somewhat un- 
easy. He had never seen the Captain in such a state 
before. He was panting like a man who had run him- 
self out of breath. He could hardly speak four words 
in succession without stopping. Then his voice — 
usually a powerful baritone — was now so faint and 
squeaky that Ben had great trouble in catching his 
words. What was the matter with the Captain ? Was 
he simply hungry? Or was it his approaching en 
counter with the Russian that rendered him nervous 
and timid? him, the daring pursuer of the redoubta- 
ble Si Hamed, with no let-up for two days and two 
nights ? him, gazetted in four different languages for 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 55 

especial bravery at Samosaki? Or, happy thought, 
was it his own, Ben Zoufs, senses that had gone 
wrong? Had that unaccountable shock of last night 
injured his hearing? And, now that he came to think 
of it, was not his own voice also somewhat squeaky 
and feeble ? Did he not now experience as much dif- 
ficulty in catching his breath as on that memorable 
day when he came up with the Kabyles after a long 
chase up the slopes of the Jebel Amur? Could his 
lungs have been aifected as well as his hearing ? 

Nothing whatever was wrong with either his ears or 
his lungs. The simple truth was — though neither the 
Captain nor his Orderly had as yet suspected it — 
the air had suddenly become much less dense than 
they had been accustomed to, and consequently both 
harder to breathe and less suitable for the transmission 
of sound. 

The Captain seemed but little inclined to trouble 
himself with these questions just now. His whole de- 
sire was concentrated on being the first to be present 
on the field of battle. Closely followed by Ben Zouf, 
he made a bee-line for the little meadow under the 
cliffs, where he had agreed to meet his rival. 

In the meantime, the weather was undergoing a re- 
markable change. The sun was no longer visible. 
Black, copper-colored, electric-looking clouds, lay so 



$6 TO THE SUN! 

low as almost to hide the horizon. Not a breath was 
stirring. Everything, in short, announced an impend- 
ing rain-storm of torrential proportions, or, at all events, 
a frightful tempest. Still, no doubt for lack of suffi- 
cient condensation, the black looming clouds held up 
bravely, and not a single heavy drop fell to announce 
that the storm was close at hand. 

The sea, on their right, as Ben soon remarked, foi 
the first time seemed completely deserted. Mostaganem 
Bay is generally pretty animated, at some parts of the 
year particularly so, but this morning not a single sail 
flecked the grayish clouds, not a single streak of smoke 
betrayed the distant steamer. This, we have said, was 
Ben's remark, but the Captain could not help noticing 
something still more puzzling. Could it be an optical 
illusion? The horizon was much nearer, even when 
looked at seawardly. The cliff on which they moved 
being about one hundred feet high, their horizon, ac- 
cording to a well known law in geometry, should be 
at least twelve miles distant. The Captain's most care- 
ful observation would hardly allow it to be three miles 
distant. The convexity was certainly more decided 
than he had ever noticed it before. Could the earth's 
diameter have suddenly contracted? What was the 
matter with the world ? 

But a new surprise soon struck them as still more 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 57 

astonishing. They had not been ten minutes on the 
road when they began to experience less difficulty in 
breathing. Their lungs gradually began to act with 
the easy play of those of a tired man after he has taken 
a little rest. But the Captain and his Man were any- 
thing but resting. Far from it. They were marching 
with greater rapidity than ever. This was the strange 
part of it. With all their speed, they were hardly con- 
scious of increased muscular exertion. Trees, rocks, 
and bushes flew past them as if they had been in a 
railroad train. They were floating rather than walk- 
ing. It had been always one of Ben Zouf's ineradi- 
cable principles never to start in the morning before 
breakfast. His fidelity to this rule sometimes brought 
him into trouble — but no trouble, as he said, was as 
bad as to undertake anything serious while fasting. To 
do so spoiled all his chances of success, besides rendering 
him heavy, dull, and sick all day. But this morning 
he was at the opposite extreme of sick and dull. His 
spirits were quite hilarious, and his body moved along 
as if he had wings to his feet. 

Suddenly, a disagreeable barking attracted the travel- 
lers' attention, and at the same moment a jackal jumped 
out of a mastic jungle skirting their path on the left. 
The animal belonged to a species peculiar to this part 
of Africa chiefly remarkable for the black splashes tha^ 



58 TO THE SUN! 

spot the sides and the black stripes that run along the 
forepart of the legs. At night, and forming part of 
a troop, it may be dangerous ; but in the daytime and 
alone, it is no more formidable than an ordinary dog. 
Night or day Ben was never afraid of jackals, but he 
never liked them at any time — probably because Mont- 
martre counted no such animal among its fauna. 

The animal, hurriedly quitting the thicket, ran to the 
foot of a steep rock, where, turning round, it began 
to survey the travellers with an air of considerable un 
easiness. For a moment only, for, at Ben's gesture of 
presenting a gun, the timid creature was so alarmed, 
that, to the profound stupefaction of the Captain and 
his Orderly, it made a spring and landed itself on the 
summit of the rock in one single bound. 

^^ What a jumper ! " cried Ben, in amazement. '* That 
rock is thirty-six feet high if it is an inch ! " 

^^ Not a line lower ! " observed the Captain, no less 
surprised. '' Never before did I witness such an as- 
tounding bounce.'^ 

Sitting quietly on the top of the rock, the jackal 
appeared to regard the travellers with such a jeering 
glance that Ben, losing patience, stooped for a big 
stone that lay at his feet. What he picked up was 
certainly a stone, to judge from its look and touch, but, 
as far as weight was concerned, it might as well have 
been a piece of sponge. 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 59 

*'Hang the cuss!" muttered Ben. ^'I might as 
well fire a crust of bread at him as a stone like this ! 
What's the matter with it an^^vay? It's big enough 
to be ten times as heavy ! " 

So saying, and having nothing better at hand, he 
flung the stone, but missed the jackal. That prudent 
animal, mistrusting such hostile demonstrations and 
unwilling to stand another shot, took to immediate 
flight and soon disappeared, bounding over the shrubs, 
rocks, and even the trees, in a series of jumps that would 
do honor to an india-rubber kangaroo filled with hy- 
drogen gas. 

But it was the stone's course that surprised Ben the 
most. He actually thought it was never going to stop. 
It went up in the air like an arrow, described a very 
long and flat parabola, and fell at last so far away 
that he could neither see the spot nor hear the sound. 

^^Name of the Prophet!" cried Ben, swearing like 
an Arab. *• I never knew I was so strong! I could 
back myself heavy against a four-pounder ! " 

Quickening his pace a little, he was soon ahead of 
the Captain. Seeing a ditch crossing the path before 
him, ten or tw^elve feet wide and filled with water, 
he started off at a run to give himself the necessary 
momentum for clearing it at a jump. 

He rose at once in the air like a kite, to the Cap- 



6o TO THE SUN I 

tain's inexpressible astonishment, and, we must add, 
even consternation. 

'^ Where are you going, Ben Zouf? *' he exclaimed, 
almost unconsciously. '^ Do you want to break your 
neck, you madman ? ' * 

But Ben only kept on getting higher and higher, till 
he was at least at an altitude of forty feet. The 
startled Captain did not know what to think, but see- 
ing the ditch before him, he also took a little run to 
jump it. His upward muscular effort must have been 
not quite so great as Ben's, for he rose only to a height 
of about thirty feet above the ground. But his forward 
impetus was considerably greater ; for while he was still 
on the rise he shot past Ben Zouf, who was on the fall. 
Then in his turn obeying the laws of gravity, he began 
to approach the earth with accelerating velocity. But, 
to his great surprise as well as to his supreme satisfac- 
tion, he experienced no worse shock on coming in 
contact with the earth than if he had made an ordi- 
nary jump of no more than four or five feet. 

'^Circus, Captain!'* cried Ben Zouf, with a roar 
of laughter. *'The flying men can't hold a candle 
to us!" 

Before the Captain would venture a reply, he laid 
his hand on Ben's shoulder for a few minutes in deep 
thought ; then he said, gravely : 




THE JUMP. 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC, 6l 

'^Look at me straight in the eye, Ben Zouf ! If I'm 
not awake, pinch me till I am ! Pinch me, if need be, 
till the blood comes ! If you and I are not dreaming, 
you and I are mad ! ' ' 

*^We must be dreaming, Captain," answered Ben, 
without a moment's hesitation. ^^At least I remember 
to have often dreamt of flying over Montmartre like 
a swallow. But somehow all that was different from 
all this. A dream is quite natural like, but these here 
doings are against all nature ! Something strange is 
the matter somewhere, but what it is, I'm blest if I 
know!" 

**It would puzzle Old Nick himself!" cried the 
Captain, completely nonplussed. ^^We're neither 
asleep nor dreaming, that's certain — and if we 're 
mad!—" 

But the Captain was not the man to puzzle himself 
too long in trying to sound the unfathomable. He 
soon started off again, gayly exclaiming : 

*^ Happy thought ! Reasoning does more harm than 
good ! Only perplexes a fellow's brain ! Here goes ! 
Come what may, I shall never wonder again ! Nil ad- 
mirari! as we used to say in school." 

'' What does that mean. Captain? " 

*' Be surprised at nothing ! " 

*' Except as to how you and the Count will manage 



62 TO THE SUN! 

to fight this morning," said Ben, who, being of a prac- 
tical turn, never forgot the main business on hand. 

A comparatively few minutes more brought them 
to a little meadow, green, smooth, velvety, surrounded 
by palms, carobs, sycamores, cactuses, aloes, and green 
oaks, interspersed here and there by a few gigantic gum- 
trees — all planted here about fifty years before, now 
in full maturity, and completely screening the meadow 
from all impertinent observations either by land or by 
sea. It was, in fact, the very arena in which the rivals 
had agreed to settle their dispute by a hand-to-hand 
conflict. 

"First on the ground ! " cried the Captain, throwing 
a rapid glance over the meadow. 

" Or the last ! " observed the Orderly. 

"The last? Impossible!" answered the Captain, 
pulling out his watch, which he had tried to set by 
the sun before they had left the gourbi. 

"Captain," asked Ben, "do you see that little 
whitish spot in those clouds right over our heads ? ' 

"I see it very distinctly," answered the Captain. 
"What of it?" 

" It 's the sun ! " said Ben, calmly. 

"The sun overhead in January, thirty-six degree: 
north of the equator ! " cried Captain Hector. " Dc 
you know what you are saying, Ben Zouf?" 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 63 

^^ Begging pardon, Captain, that's the sun and noth- 
ing else. He marks twelve o'clock too, and nothing 
shorter. He appears to be uncommonly lively to-day. 
My cap against a plate of soup, he will set within three 
hours ! ' * 

In spite of his recently formed resolution, Captain 
Hector was once more astounded. He looked long 
and steadily at the whitish spot in the clouds. Then 
he took a careful survey of the four cardinal points. 
At last he spoke : 

^^The laws of gravity changed ! The cardinal points 
changed ! The length of the day cut down fifty per 
cent. ! My meeting with the Count indefinitely post- 
poned ! There 's something wrong ! What is it? My 
head seems all right, and nothing unusual seems to be 
the matter with Ben Zouf's ! — Look around Ben Zouf ! 
Do you see anybody ? ' ' 

^^ Nobody, Captain," answered Ben, very quietly. 
** The Russian gentleman is gone ! " 

^'Well, suppose he's gone, would not my friends 
have waited for us? And, seeing no sign of our ap- 
proach, wouldn't they have started for the gourbi to 
know what had detained us ? " 

^'Tliey would most certainly. Captain." 

^*I conclude, then, that they have not come at all.^' 

'^ Because, Captain — ? " 



64 TO THE SUN! 

*' Because they have not been able to come. As to 
the Count — but before saying anything, let us take all 
the observations we can." 

He ran across the meadow to the right, and climbing 
a very high and steep rock, he looked carefully up and 
down the coast for some sign of the Dobryna. The 
Count, he thought, might have started for the place 
of meeting by water, as he had done the previous even 
ing. 

The sea was completely without a sail. This fact, 
unusual at any season of the year, might, however, 
be explained by the state of the sea, now observed 
by the Captain for the first time. Not a breath of 
wind was stirring, and yet the waves were agitated 
in an extraordinary manner. In fact, they were 
boiling, bubbling, and seething, as if some tremen- 
dous fire was raging in the bottom of the ocean. 
The Dobryna, he readily concluded, could have never 
kept her moorings in such a perilous swell. 

From his elevated position he could now convince 
himself more positively than before that the horizon 
had considerably contracted. From the summit of his 
rock, about four hundred feet above the level of the 
sea, he should be able in ordinary circumstances to 
command a view oceanward extending at least twenty 
or thirty miles. The horizon that he now saw could 
not be at most more than two or three miles distant ! 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC, 6, 

Again he asked himself, how could such things be? 
how could the volume of the earth have been contracted 
so considerably in a space of a few hours ? 

'* It beats Stur??i's theorem,^ ^ he muttered, uncon- 
sciously using a phrase he had often employed in his 
school-days to express a state of great mental perplexity. 

In the meantime, Ben, nimble as a monkey, had run 
up one of the gum-trees, and from this elevated point 
taken a careful survey of the land, eastwardly towards 
Tenez, westwardly towards Mostaganem Bay, and south- 
wardly towards the Sheliif. He looked long and earn- 
estly in each direction. His sight was keen, and he 
knew the country well. But as he descended the tree, 
his face wore a disappointed and even troubled look. 
The Captain on his return found him shaking his head 
as a sign that he could really say nothing or even guess 
nothing. ^' Tenez," he muttered, '^ was too far away 
to be noticed ; of the Mostaganem country he could 
see nothing whatever; but the Sheliff puzzled him more 
than anything else. The river certainly was there — 
at least as far as water was concerned — but it appeared 
to be a river with only one bank. The bank on the 
other side had completely vanished. Of the bridge 
not a trace could be seen." Ben could not help 
adding that he felt a little as if he were bewitched. 

^* No bank on the other side!" cried the Captain, 



66 TO THE SUN! 

hearing no more. ^^ Nonsense, Ben Zouf! The most 
arrant nonsense ! However," he added hastily, ^Mioth- 
ing is nonsense anymore! To the Sheliff!*' 

The point of the Sheliff which they now wished to 
reach could not be more than a few miles away ; still, 
it was quite evident that, if they were to cross the 
river and reach Mostaganem before nightfall, they had 
no time whatever to lose. In spite of the thick clouds 
still enveloping the sky, they felt that the sun was 
already making for the horizon, and, another inexplica- 
ble puzzle, instead of describing the oblique arc re- 
quired by the latitude of Algeria at this time of the 
year, he was actually descending vertically. 

How to offer any plausible explanation for all these 
startling prodigies ? The Captain's brain had become 
a regular whirligig between overpowering astonishment 
on the one side, and on the other swarms of theories^ 
each one more perplexing than the last. What incom- 
prehensible phenomenon had changed the rotation of 
the earth so that the east had become west ? How had 
'■he Algerine coast been transported beyond the equa- 
or, far into the southern hemisphere, so as to be di- 
rectly underneath the sun in January? What could 
explain the extraordinary modification of the earth's 
convexity except the supposition that the earth itself 
had suddenly shrunk to a size far from that corre- 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 67 

-iponding with its ordinary dimensions ? There seemed, 
however, to have been no very great change made in 
the immediate neighborhood. The shore to-day pre- 
sented the same aspect as yesterday — the usual suc- 
cession of cliffs, beach, and arid rocks red with iron 
rust. Far as the eye could range, it could detect no 
serious modification in the coast. It was just the same 
when the Captain cast a glance towards the mountains 
in the south-east — or at least what he persisted in call- 
ing the south-east, more from habit than conviction, 
for he could not deny that at least two of the cardinal 
points had been decidedly inverted. Six or eight 
miles off, the foot-hills of the Merjejah could be plainly 
distinguished ; and the sierras in the back ground still 
showed their peculiar and well-known outline. 

Suddenly, through an opening in the clouds, an 
oblique ray of the declining sun flashed across the 
landscape. Yes, there could be no more doubt about 
it. The orb of day had risen in the west and was 
now setting in the east. 

^^What the thunder will they think of all this at 
Mostaganem? " exclaimed the Captain, in a loud voice, 
though speaking to himself. ^' What will the Minister 
of War say when he learns by telegraph that his 
African colony is — not morally — that she can't be — 
but physically turned topsy-turvy?" 



68 TO THE SUN! 

*' The Minister of War is severe but just!" ob 
served Ben Zouf, not quite understanding the Cap- 
taints words. ^^If his African colony has done wrong, 
let her be punished to learn to behave herself! " 

''That the cardinal points are completely at variance 
with the military regulations ! '^ 

'' Court-martial the cardinal points, like so many 
rebel Kabyles ! '' 

''That the sun strikes me with vertical rays, in mid- 
winter ! '* 

"Strike an officer! Take the sun out and shoot 
him on the spot ! " 

In high discipline, General Boum, in comparison to 
Ben, was simply nowhere. 

By this time they were already far on their way. 
Profiting by their extraordinary lightness, and now 
completely recovered from the choking sensation caused 
by the sudden rarefaction of the air, they ran rather than 
walked, — in fact, they bounded like hares, they sprang 
like chamois. Nothing could divert them from their 
bird^s track, as the English have it, or, as the Ameri- 
cans say, their bee-line. The ordinary paths, wniding 
along the cliffs and considerably lengthening the jour- 
ney, they quitted altogether. Did they meet a line of 
shrubbery? they sailed over it; a stream? they jumped 
it; a clump of trees? they cleared it; a hill? the> 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC, 65- 

flew over it. Ben found himself wishing Montmartrr. 
was around to try his hands or rather his feet on. 
The Captain's only apprehension was that their verti- 
cal course, by taking them so much out of the hori- 
zontal, would considerably lengthen their journey. In 
fact, they lit only now and then upon the ground j and 
then it acted like a vast spring-board of an elasticity 
almost boundless. 

At last, a turn brought them within sight of the 
Sheliff, and in a few minutes they were on the summit 
of its right bank. There they had to stop. The 
Captain rubbed his eyes in renewed amazement. Ben 
was right. Not a trace of the bridge was to be seen 
over which they had ridden twice yesterday. And for 
a good reason too, — tliere was no left bank ! 

'•Some terrible earthquake must have been making 
a lake here," was all the Captain could exclairr. after 
a few moments' silence. 

'^ Deluge number two ! " quietly observed Ben. 

What had become of the fertile plain over which 
they had galloped yesterday towards Mostaganem? 
Where was the river itself? Its right bank they were 
still standing on, only it was no longer a bank, but 
a shore, from which they looked out over a boundless 
bay. Where was the left bank? Where, they asked 
again, was the well-known muddy river that had been 



70 TO THE SUN! 

murmuring yesterday with its sleepy motion over its 
bed of well-worn rounded rocks? Those blue waves, 
foaming, agitated, tumultuous, far extending, could not 
be the placid Sheliff. Could the river have been sud- 
denly metamorphosed into an ocean ? 

The Captain's impatient desire to answer this ques- 
tion he soon gratified. Scrambling down the steep bank 
among tufts of rose-laurels and other native trees and 
shrubs, he hastily made his way to the brink, dipped 
his hand in the water and touched it to his tongue. 

^^Salt!" he cried. ^^The earthquake must have 
swallowed up all Western Algeria ! ' ' 

^* It 's worse than a deluge then ? " asked Ben Zouf. 

^* It 's a cataclysm that has changed the whole world ! " 
cried the Captain, in accents as expressive of extreme 
sorrow as of surprise. *^ No one can calculate its terri- 
ble effects. Oh, my friends, my dear comrades, what 
nas become of you ? ' ' 

Never before had Ben seen his master so profoundly 
moved. He was far from realizing the full extent of 
his emotion, but he had the good sense to perceive 
that the present was no time for light or jesting re- 
marks. He restrained his tongue, therefore, and even 
tried to assume as grave a countenance as the Captain's. 
His sense of duty would no doubt have just as readily 
induced him to partake of his master's sentiments, had 




THE UNKNOWN SEA. 



WHAT'S THE MATTER, ETC. 71 

he only known precisely what they were. . As it was, 
he did his best to manifest his sympathy with the 
Captain's feelings. 

The new shore of the Sheliff ran north and south 
in a line very slightly curved. It did not seem to 
have been affected at all by the earthquake, or what- 
ever it was, that had so seriously changed the rest of 
the country. It still showed, as the Captain had 
mapped it out on his topographical sheets, the same 
groves of towering trees, the same peculiar and rather 
fantastical outlines, the same emerald carpet of its 
sheltered meadows. No change could be noticed ex- 
cept the great one — instead of being the right bank 
of a quiet river, it was now the shore of an unknown 
sea. 

The Captain had not time to reflect on half the 
changes wrought in the physical aspect of everything 
all round him, when the night fell. The sun plunged 
plumb into the horizon as straight as a stone falling 
in air. Had they been on the equator on the 21st 
of March or the 21st of September, our travellers 
would not have felt the night approach more rapidly. 
No twilight now, no twilight in all probability next 
morning. Earth, sea, sky, were all instantly swallowed 
up in profound darkness. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE NEW DOMAIN. 

IN Spite of all these overpowering surprises, the Cap 
tain kept wonderfully cool. Was this the effect of 
pure philosophy ? Hardly. We are more disposed to 
attribute it to his indomitable curiosity. What had 
happened possessed little interest for him in compari- 
son with his intense desire to know why it had hap- 
pened. That this why he had not yet even begun to 
answer is true enough, but his efforts in the one 
direction certainly blunted his sensibilities in the other. 
Under the stimulating influence of this curiosity he 
felt himself gradually recovering from the effects of 
a stupor that at first had threatened to completely 
benumb his senses. He began to look at things 
squarely in the face, and, though almost as indifferent 
as Ben to consequences, he watched intently for every 
sign or hint that could cast even the least possible 
light on the cause of the extraordinary state of things 
surrounding him. 

The sudden darkness bewildered him only for a few 
moments. Then he spoke : 

72 



THE NE W DOMAIN. 73 

"All further inquiries must be postponed till day- 
light — that is, if we ever have daylight again, for what 
has become of the sun, hang me if I know ! '' 

*^ Captain,'* said Ben, touching his cap even in the 
darkness, "I'm waiting orders." 

"We remain where we are to-night, Ben Zouf. 
To-morrow we shall return to the gourbt, after some 
further reconnoissance to the south and east. It is 
hardly necessary to observe, Ben Zouf, that in order 
to arrive at a just conclusion regarding the probable 
cause of this extraordinary state of things, our first 
step is to find out where we are ourselves; our sec- 
ond, to ascertain the exact state of things around us." 

"All right. Captain. May I consider myself dis- 
missed ? ' ' 

"Yes, for the night." 

" To sleep or keep guard. Captain ? " 

" To sleep, if you can 1 Good-night ! " 

"All right. Captain ! " answered Ben, with the regu- 
lar military salute, and, as unconcerned as the horses 
he had left at the gourbi, he groped about in the dark 
for the sheltered side of a rock, stretched himself out 
as comfortably as the nature of his stony couch would 
allow, and in a very few minutes was sleeping the sleep 
of the ignorant, which is always deeper and sometimes 
even happier than the sleep of the just. 



74 TO THE SUN! 

But the Captain could not sleep. His brain was 
too busy hunting after answers for innumerable whats, 
whys, and hows. What, in the first place, had been 
the limit of this catastrophe ? Had it been confined to 
a comparatively small portion of the African continent ? 
Had Algiers, Mostaganem, and Oran been spared? Or 
had these cities, with their contents, been all swal- 
lowed up, like Lisbon, in 1755, with its fifty thousand 
inhabitants? Or had the Mediterranean, disturbed 
by some tremendous, but local explosion, merely over- 
flowed that portion of the Algerine territory that lay 
immediately south of the Sheliff? This last theory 
certainly explained the sudden disappearance of the 
river, but it explained no more. The cause of the 
other great cosmical but undeniable facts it left in 
the dark as much as ever. 

Another theory. Could the North African coast, 
together with the whole adjacent Mediterranean Sea, 
have been suddenly transported by the operation of some 
stupendous agency to the Torrid Zone? This would 
readily explain the new path described by the sun 
and the total absence of twilight. But how about 
a day six hours long replacing one of twelve? How 
about the sun rising in the west and setting in the 
east ? Towards furnishing the slightest plausible reason 
for these extraordinary phenomena, such a theory was 
evidently not worth an instant's serious consideration. 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 75 

One fact was unquestionable j two of the cardinal 
points had changed places — the east had become w^est 
and the west had become east. But what of the north 
and south ? Had they too been inverted ? A single 
glance at the stars would have enabled the Captain to 
answer this question with little difficulty. Though never 
strong on cosmography, he knew enough of astronomy 
to feel assured that, if the North star kept its place^ the 
earth was still spinning on its old axis. And, on the 
contrary, if Polaris was replaced by some other star, 
the earth was certainly turning on a new axis, and — 
ha ! — perhaps even in a direction different from that 
of its former rotation. This theory would undoubtedly 
explain several things besides the endless puzzle of w^est 
and east. 

But, unfortunately, the clouds would give no glimpse 
of the sky. They were almost as black as ink. They 
looked watery enough and threatening enough to con- 
tam a deluge. A few moments' observation convinced 
the Captain that through such a screen as that he 
could see just as much of the sky with his eyes shut 
as with his eyes open. 

From the moon, he was well aware he could receive 
no aid. This very day of the month she was ^^new," 
that is, close to the sun ; v/hen he had disappeared be- 
low the horizon, she of course had borne him company 



76 TO THE SUN! 

But — could he believe his eyes? He had been an 
hour or two promenading up and down the shore, 
when suddenly, just above the western horizon, he 
suddenly caught sight of a strong light rising behind 
the clouds and struggling to break through them. 

^* The moon ! " he quickly exclaimed. ^' Who knows ! 
She might take the notion, too, and startle people by 
rising in the west ? But — no ! that can't be the moon ! 
Her light could never be so intense — unless, in fact, 
she was coming so close to the earth as to endanger 
a collision ! ** 

The light certainly was far stronger than ordinary 
moonlight. To whatever heavenly body it owed its 
existence, it was powerful enough to penetrate the 
screen of dark clouds, and diffuse a soft, steady light 
over the landscape almost as great as that of a dark day 
in winter. 

''Can it be the sun?" the Captain asked himself. 
'' No ! An hour and a half ago he set in the east. But 
if neither sun nor moon, what can it be ? Some tre- 
mendous bolide ? Hang those clouds ! Will they never 
open ? ' ' 

After a few moments' reflection, he burst out again : 

''What a confounded jackass I was at St. Cyr, not 
to study astronomy better ! What opportunities I lost 
through idleness ! In all probability this is quite a 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 77 

simple matter, though my brain is almost burst trying 
vainly to understand it ! " 

These angry regrets did him no good. The mysteries 
of a strange sky, though becoming every moment more 
and more wonderful in his eyes, continued to be as 
unfathomable as the grave. The stupendous light, 
evidently projected by some dazzling disc of enormous 
dimensions, went on inundating the upper regions of 
the clouds for at least an hour. Then, what was even 
more surprising, the enormous disc, instead of describing 
such an arc on the sky as is usually done by celestial 
bodies, and then desce?idi?ig towards the opposite ho?'izony 
seemed to retire slowly in a line perpendicular to the 
plane of the equator, gradually withdrawing as it re- 
tired that peculiar light so agreeable to the eye with 
which it had at first pleasantly flooded the atmosphere. 

Then all was pitchy blackness again. The Captain 
was more in the dark than ever, physically as well as 
morally. The most elementary rules of mechanics were 
disregarded before his eyes. The celestial vault, in- 
stead of being, as it always had been, a majestic chro- 
nometer eternal in its laws and invariable in its move- 
ments, seemed now to be no better than a miserable 
Yankee clock with a disordered escapement. The 
lordly planets themselves treated the commonest rules 
of gravity with the utmost contempt. After this, who 



78 TO THE SUN! 

could tell if even the sun would ever deign to show him- 
self again in any quarter of the horizon ! 

As if in silent mockery of such reflections, up rose the 
sun suddenly on the western horizon, his rising, like 
his setting, announced by no twilight. The black 
clouds were instantly whitened by the morning rays. 
The day at once replaced the night, and the Captain, 
consulting his watch, saw that it was exactly six 
o'clock. 

It was now time to wake Ben Zouf. 

^^ Hillo ! " cried ^the Captain, shaking him vigoi- 
ously. ''Get up! Time to start ! " 

''What, Captain!" muttered Ben, jumping up, but 
hardly able to open his eyes. " Seems to me I have 
not had my regular allowance ! " 

" You 've slept a whole night ! " 

" A whole night ! Oh, Captain ! " 

"Yes, a whole night, of six hours! The kind of 
nights we have now. You must get used to them." 

"A whole night!" repeated Ben to himself, feeling 
something to be wrong. "But it must be a whole 
night, since there 's the sun ! No matter ! It 's all 
right. Captain. Good-morning, Captain," he added, 
in a few seconds, now fully alive to the whole situation. 

"No time to lose now, Ben Zouf. Instead of going 
any further on foot, let us return at once to the gourbi. 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 79 

I wish to know how the horses are, and what they think 
of all this." 

'* They don't think at all, Captain. They know the 
world has gone wrong, because Ben Zouf gave them no 
supper last night nor breakfast this morning." 

^'Let Ben Zouf teach them better, then, as soon as 
possible," said the Captain, already starting. ^^When 
they 're fed and groomed, saddle them, without delay, 
so that we may know as soon as possible how much is 
left of Algeria! " 

''All right, Captain, and then — ?" 

''Then, if we can't reach Mostaganem by the south, 
we must fall back on Tenez, in the east." 

Their route back to the gourbi lay a little more to 
the right than yesterday's. Though more inland, it 
was quite as deserted as the sea-coast — a circumstance, 
however, which did not surprise them much, as the 
few agricultural laborers employed here lived mostly 
in villages on the other side of the Sheliff. Though 
moving pretty briskly, they did not fail to stop now 
and then to pick and eat some of the choice figs, 
dates, and oranges growing in the country all around 
them. For our travellers were very hungry, having 
eaten nothing for a day and a night, and the new 
government plantations had turned this portion of the 
territory into a vast and luxuriant orchard. 



8o TO THE SUN! 

They soon reached the gourbi, and found things there 
in exactly the same state as they had been left in. 
Nobody had called in their absence — friend or foe. 
Nor was there the least sign of any human being to 
be seen around. This part of the country was evi- 
dently quite as deserted as the more western region 
which they had just traversed. 

Preparations for departure were soon made. Ben 
flung a few eatables into his wallet ; as for drinkables, 
there was plenty of sweet water to be always found in 
the beautiful little streams that came down from the 
mountains and flowed in murmurs across the plains. 

Zephyr — the Captain's Arabian — and Galette (a 
souvenir of Montmartre), Ben's coal-black steed, were 
saddled in a second ; in the next, the mounted cava- 
liers were galloping rapidly towards the Shelifl". 

If yesterday's personal experience had led the riders 
to expect a corresponding activity on the part of their 
horses, we must say that such expectations were com- 
pletely realized. Inasmuch as the muscular force 
of the animals surpassed that of the men, so much 
higher did the horses now rise in their wild bounds, 
and so much farther did they extend their tremendous 
,eaps. 

Simple quadrupeds no longer, they fully realized the 
fabled hippogriffs of old, whose flying hoofs seldom 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 8 1 

touched the plain. The Captain and his Orderly were, 
fortunately, superb riders ; in no danger of falling off, 
they never dreamed of restraining the wild speed of 
their horses; on the contrary, they seemed to take a 
fierce desire in urging it to the utmost. 

Twenty minutes brought them to the Sheliif, where, 
assuming a more moderate pace, the horses began to 
ascend the right bank of the river in a south-easterly 
direction. The other bank was still invisible. The 
only horizon visible south and east, as well as west, 
was a horizon of sea and sky. Such a state of things 
tended to but one conclusion — all that portion of the 
province of Oran lying in the neighborhood of Mos- 
taganem had been swallowed up during the night of 
December the 31st. 

Hardly any other conclusion seemed possible. The 
Captain knew the country perfectly. He had surveyed 
it and mapped it, and was quite familiar with all its 
permanent features. His chief desire now was: fiist, 
to take a hasty general glance at the whole territory 
in its present condition; secondly, to survey it over 
again, and to accompany the new map with a writ- 
ten report omitting no important detail. This map and 
this report he would then dispatch — to whom ? and at 
what time? But all such questions he was obliged 
to leave unanswered for the present. 



82 TO THE SUN! 

During the remaining hours of daylight the travellers 
rode about twenty miles along the shore. Night caught 
them at the point where the river had formerly made 
a light bend to the north, and, according to the Cap- 
tain's calculations, almost exactly opposite the spot where 
its waters had been joined by those of the Mina, now 
swallowed up by the overwhelming sea. This day, 
like the previous one, was passed without meeting a 
single human soul. 

Supper dispatched, horses picketed in the rich grass, 
and Ben's sleeping arrangements hastily improvised, 
our travellers were soon at rest, and the six hours of 
night passed quickly away without incident. 

Early next morning — January 2d, according to our 
earthly calendar — the Captain and his Orderly re- 
sumed their tour of exploration. By sunset they had 
finished a journey of about forty-two miles, besides 
making some important discoveries. At a point about 
twelve miles above the old confluence of the Mina, 
they found that quite an important portion of the right 
bank had disappeared, carrying with it the village of 
Surkelmittou and its eight hundred inhabitants. The 
travellers stood appalled at the contemplation of such 
a calamity. Who could say that a similar fate had not 
likewise befallen Mostaganem, Orleansville, Mazagran, 
and other important places in this part of Algeria? 



THE NE W DOMAIN, 83 

Doubling the little bay formed by the disappearance 
of a portion of the shore, the travellers soon found 
themselves again on the right bank. From here, if 
the Captain remembered aright, he should have been 
able to perceive, on the other side of the river, the 
town of Ammi Moussa, formerly Kamis, belonging to 
the Beni Ouraghs. But no trace of it could be dis- 
cerned now, nor even of the Peak of Monkoura, which 
had risen behind it to a height of between three and 
four thousand feet. 

Their camping-ground for the night was a sudden 
angle of the shore, which put an abrupt end to all 
further progress in this direction. The important 
village of Memoun Turray should have stood here, 
as well as the Captain recollected, but not the slight- 
est vestige of it was now to be found. 

^^No chance of a supper or a bed at Orleans ville, 
to-night," said the Captain, gazing over the dark sea 
with a troubled and disappointed look. 

^^ Unless we hunt up a boat somewhere, Captain," 
said Ben, always ready with a suggestion. 

'^ Why, things here are in a terrible state, Ben Zouf ! " 
observed the Captain, dejectedly. ^^Do you know that 
we have had m^ost extraordinary luck ? ' ' 

^* That's our sort generally. Captain," answered 
Ben, cheerfully, ^^and you'll say so particularly when 



84 TO THE SUN! 

we find ourselves safe and sound sauntering into Mos- 
taganem ! ' * 

'^Hm!'' replied the Captain, with a 'dubious shake 
of the head. '^If it's on a peninsula that we are — 
which is most likely — it will be at Tenez rather than 
Mostaganem that we shall learn something.'* 

^^ Tenez or Mostaganem all the same," answered 
Ben, busying himself with the horses. ^'Everybody 
will be glad to see us. Good-night, Captain ! " 

A little after sunrise next morning, after a hasty break- 
fast, our explorers were again on the road. 

The scenery all around had completely changed in 
character. No longer east and west, the shore now ran 
north and south. In fact, it was no longer shore at 
all, at least in the sense that the right bank of the 
Sheliff had been shore. A perpendicular crack or rup- 
ture had put a sudden end to the former plain. East, 
as well as south, no land appeared at the other side 
of the water. Ben galloped up a little hill on the 
left to make sure that this was really the case. No 
doubt at all about it. Not a speck of land in any di- 
rection. Of course nothing could be seen of Orleans • 
ville, which should have lain six or seven miles south 
east. 

Nothing further remained to do but turn their faces 
northwards. Their new course was pursued with much 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 85 

difficulty. It lay through broken rocks, terrible earth- 
slides, cracks deep and straight like the crevasses of a 
glacier, trees partially uprooted and with branches half 
buried in the water — among others, some old olive- 
trees, whose gnarled, twisted, and fantastically shaped 
trunks seemed actually to have been chopped to pieces 
with an axe. 

This obliged our cavaliers to move slowly. The 
creeks, cliffs, and rough headlands on the shore also 
compelled them to make considerable detours. The 
consequence was that they had made only about twenty- 
two miles when night overtook them at the foot of the 
Jebel Merjejah Mountains, which, before the late catas- 
trophe, had formed the termination of the Lesser Atlas 
range in these quarters. Here the mountain chain 
^ad been suddenly snapped asunder, and cliffs now 
rose out of the sea, straight as a wall and high as 
the Rock of Gibraltar. 

Next morning our travellers rode as far up into the 
mountain defiles as the horses could penetrate ; then 
they alighted, and pursued their way on foot to the 
summit of the highest peak they could climb. From 
this elevated position they took the best survey they 
could, under the circumstances, of this particular por- 
tion of the Algerine coast. 

A glance or two set their minds at rest at least on 



86 TO THE SUN! 

one point. What they learned was not very satisfactory, 
but it was decisive. 

The new coast which they had been following yester- 
day continued northward in a straight line all the way 
from the foot of the Merjejah Mountains to the Medi- 
terranean Sea, a distance of about twenty miles. The 
land on which they stood was no peninsula. It was 
an island. Tenez had disappeared. From their peak 
they could discern that water surrounded them on the 
south, the east, and the north. Look where they might, 
no trace of land appeared, except in the west, where, 
as they knew well, it came to a sudden termination 
near their, gourbi. There could be no longer any ques- 
tion about it : they were on an island, and cut off from 
the rest of the world by the salt sea. 

The newly formed island resembled in shape an ir- 
regular quadrilateral. Its dimensions were nearly as 
follows : the line of the old bank of the Sheliff, running 
nearly east and west, was about seventy-five miles long ; 
a line of coast from the interruption of the bank to 
the Jebel Merjejah ran almost directly north and south 
for a distance of twenty-two miles; the line from the 
mountains to the Mediterranean extended a distance 
of about nineteen miles north-west by north ; from this 
point the line ran along the sea-shore south by west 
for a distance of sixty miles, back to the mouth of the 



THE NEW D OMAIN. 87 

Sheliff. The coast line of the island measured in all 
about one hundred and eighty miles. 

'^ Well! " exclaimed the Captain, after he had care- 
fully recorded in his note-book all these calculations — 
the result of previous knowledge, combined with new 
observations rendered easy by the excellent field-glasses 
provided for the staff — '' Well ! So far so good ! Now 
we can tell the what, but who can tell the why ? ' ' 

'' Why worry ourselves about it, Captain? " answered 
Ben, philosophically; ^'the good Lord has allowed it. 
That 's why enough ! " 

Descending the mountain to where they had left 
their horses grazing, they resumed their journey, and 
made such good use of the remaining daylight as to 
reach the Mediterranean coast before dark. This day's 
journey, like all the others, afforded no sight of a hu- 
man being ; even of Montenotte, and a few other vil- 
lages in the direction of Tenez, the ancient capital, 
not a vestige was visible. 

Next day, January 5 th, they made the last part of 
their journey, sixty miles along the Mediterranean. 
This part of the country, they found, had not been 
so much respected by the earthquake as the Captain's 
observations had led him to conclude. Four villages 
at least were missing : Callaat Chemah, at the mouth 
of the Chemah; Sidi-Mta-Achacha near Cape Khramis; 
Marabout and Pointe Basse, both on Teddert Bay. 



88 TO THE SUN! 

All these had disappeared. The capes near which 
tney had stood, unable to resist the terrific shock, 
had been violently wrenched from the mainland, and 
in all probability swallowed in the waves. This day's 
journey moreover only confirmed, if confirmation 
were needed, their previous conclusions regarding the 
population of the island. There was not a single hu- 
man being left on it besides themselves. Of goats, 
sheep, cows, and other half-domesticated animals, there 
was quite an abundance, flocks of them being visible 
in almost every direction. 

The tour of exploration, counting from the moment 
they had left the gourbi until their return, had lasted 
five of the new days, or two and a half of the old — 
that is, a period of sixty hours altogether. 

*at's all right, now. Captain!" said Ben, to his 
master, who, weary in body and troubled in mind, was 
getting ready to enjoy a good night's rest. 

^^ How's that, Ben Zouf? " asked Captain Hector. 

'' You 're Governor-General of Algeria ! " 

*' Governor-General of nobody ! " 

'^Excuse me. Captain. Don't I count for any- 
thing?" 

'' What do you count for, Ben Zouf? " 

" The population, Captain ; the intelligent and Indus- 
trious population ! Good-night, Governor-General." 

'' Good-night, Population ! " 



CHAPTER VII. 

FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSERVATIONS. 

IN a few minutes both Governor and Population 
were lying in a pair of tolerably comfortable beds 
hastily prepared by Ben in a room of the old station- 
house, the gourbi being still in a ruinous condition. 
The Population was not long in falling fast asleep, 
but official cares and very serious thoughts regarding 
the condition of his new domain kept the Governor 
awake for a long time. He pondered again and again 
over every item of the discoveries made in his explor- 
ing tour, but again and again he had to acknowledge 
that not a single one of them threw the least light on 
the cause of all the wonders just come to pass. The 
mysterious cause was as great a mystery as ever. He 
could not even say positively what had taken place. 
It is true that though, as said before, no great adept in 
cosmography, still, by dint of thinking, he found him- 
self gradually recalling to his mind certain established 
physical laws once learned but long ago forgotten. 
Combining these laws with his recent discoveries, he 

89 



go TO THE SUN! 

went over his former reasoning again, point by point, 
in search of some clue to guide him out of this laby- 
rinth of perplexing uncertainty. But it was all in vain. 
A theory is useless which does not explain every diffi- 
culty. None of the Captain's could do anything of 
the kind. Their very explanation of one difficulty 
only left the others more unaccountable. They all 
ended somewhat like the following: Could a sudden 
change in the inclination of the earth's axis have giver 
rise to the late startling phenomena? No. Certainly 
not. Such a change might account for the displace- 
ment of the sea, and, by a little stretching, it might 
even offer. some explanation for the inversion of the 
cardinal points, but it did not afford the slightest ex- 
planation regarding the shortness of the days or the 
diminution of gravity. 

It was so with all the Captain's other theories. He 
was at his wit's end. All the discoveries made so far 
told him absolutely nothing. But what about the dis- 
coveries yet to come ? Who knows what to-morrow 
may bring forth? This question did not offer much 
consolation, but a drowning man will catch at straws. 
The Captain, though no drowning man, would catch at 
less, and even take comfort from less. Further thinking 
was evidently useless. Now to sleep. In two minutes 
aft^r he had come to this resolution, the Governor, as weU 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSERVATIONS. 9 1 

as the Population, was fast wrapt in the arms of Mor- 
pheus. 

On waking next morning, the Captain found Ben 
bustling about, preparing for breakfast. The Orderly 
was evidently taking unusual pains to provide a princely 
repast. The soup was nearly ready j the next item of 
the programme was to boil a dozen of fresh eggs. 

The cooking-stove was nicely heated ; the copper 
saucepan shone like a new coin. x\n unglazed Moorish 
pitcher standing in the corner, its porous surface beaded 
with condensed evaporations, furnished plenty of sweet, 
cool water. The Captain, apparently absorbed in dress- 
ing, quietly watched everything that was going on. 

The saucepan, filled with water, was laid on the hot 
hearth. While waiting till it commenced to boil, Ben 
amused himself by tossing the eggs in the air and 
catching them as they fell. They felt like so many 
corks in his hands, and when, through awkwardness or 
design, he let one drop on the floor, it no more broke 
than if the shell had been papier-mache. 

The saucepan had been no more than two minutes on 
the hot iron when it began to smoke ; in another minute 
it was boiling over. 

*' Hey ! " cried Ben, interrupting his egg-tossing; 
*'ray fire is unusually brisk this morning." 

'^ It is not your fire that 's brisker this morning, Ben 



92 TO THE SUN! 

Zouf/' said the Captain, quietly. ''It is not your fire 
that 's brisker; it is your water that boils sooner.*' 

Unhooking a thermometer from the wall, he plunged 
it into the bubbling liquid. 

'' There ! '' said the Captain ; '' your water is boiling 
at 148° instead of 212° ! '* 

'' What 's the difference, Captain, so it boils at all? " 

''A very great difference, Ben Zouf. Though boil- 
hig, it is very far from being as hot as ordinary boiling 
water. This you will soon find out for yourself, if 
you don't let those eggs remain at least a quarter of an 
hour in the saucepan ! ' ' 

''A quarter of an hour ! That would turn them into 
bullets, cast-steel bullets ! " 

'' No, Ben Zouf; on the contrary, even a quarter 
of an hour's boiling in that water will hardly cook 
them well enough to give a relish to our bread." 

The Captain was correct. After a quarter of an 
hour's cooking, the eggs were considered too ''rare" 
to be pleasant. 

From this new experience the staff-officer did not 
hesitate to draw the proper conclusion. In ordinary 
cases, water cannot boil without lifting an atmospheric 
column that presses with a force of fifteen pounds to the 
square inch ; to do this, it must be hot enough to reach 
the temperature marked by 212° Fahrenheit. Here the 




BOILING AT 1480. 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSERVATIONS. 93 

water boiled at 148°, or about two-thirds of this tempera- 
ture. What did that show ? That the pressure of the 
atmosphere had been reduced one-third, and, conse- 
quently, the atmospheric column itself had been re- 
duced one-third of its ordinary height. 

This rarity of the atmosphere readily explained the 
shrill voices, the quicker breathing, the sense of smoth- 
ering, which had been so surprising at first, but which 
had now become of such common occurrence as to be 
no longer noticeable. Identical phenomena would have 
taken place on mountain summits of great elevation. 
A glance at the barometer on the top of a mountain 
of about twice the height of Mont Blanc would have 
shown an equal depression of the mercurial column. 

New theory. Could the territory have been lifted up 
to such an altitude by some tremendous upheaving 
power, existing long dormant underneath the earth's 
surface, and at last suddenly called into resistless ac- 
tivity? The answer was not long in coming. No. 
Impossible. Such a power might lift a mountain and 
even a mountain chain, but it could not lift the sea 
itself and all its waters that lay stretched out there 
before their eyes, vast, dread, unknown, and apparently 
illimitable in all directions. The new theory was 
therefore dismissed with as little ceremony as the 
others. 



94 TO THE SUN! 

By this time breakfast was ready — soup, eggs, frit- 
ters, everything. Ben, always willing to accommodate 
himself to circumstances, mentally resolved to begin 
his future culinary preparations at least an hour in ad- 
vance. 

The Captain was hardly through when Ben was ready 
with his questions. 

'' Beg pardon, Captain ! '* 

'^All right, Ben Zouf; what is it?*' 

'^ I should like to know our next move. Captain.** 

'' Our next move, Ben Zouf, is to be one of masterly 
inactivity.*' 

^^ Yes, Captain.** 

^^We shall quietly wait the logical march of events, 
Ben Zouf!" 

^* What kind of march, Captain? ** 

''When Mahomet can't go to the mountain, the 
mountain must come to Mahomet.** 

'' Come in a boat? " 

''Certainly, since we "'re on an island.** 

"You mean our friends at Mostaganem, Captain?** 

"Of course. In all probability they are all safe and 
sound, this catastrophe having confined its ravages to 
a few points on the Algerine coast." 

" That 's what I think myself. Captain.** 

" The Governor-General of Algiers, by this time re- 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSER VA TIONS. 95 

alizing the full state of the case, I have no doubt has 
dispatched vessels in every direction along the shore. 
Of course, we are not forgotten. Keep a careful look- 
out seaward, therefore, Ben Zouf, and at the first sight 
of a sail, hoist a signal." 

^^ But suppose no sail comes in sight, Captain ? " 

^^Then we shall make a boat ourselves, Ben Zouf, 
and try our luck at sea." 

''All right, Captain! Only, I never knew we were 
boat-builders and sailors ! ' ' 

'' We can be whatever we please, Ben Zouf, if we 
only make up our minds to it ! " answered the Captain, 
full of hope, energy, and resolution. 

Ben said no more. Understanding what he was to 
do. he set about doing it at once. Selecting a rock 
that commanded a good view over the ocean, he took 
his post there, and searched every part of the horizon 
with one of the Captain's best telescopes. But nothing 
was visible except water and sky north and east, water 
and sky north and west. 

Except when he fed the horses or attended to cu- 
linary affairs, this was his sole employment day after 
day. But day after day passed away quickly, no sail 
appeared, and Ben at last began to get somewhat tired 
of his fruitless watching. 

** Holy name of a bullet! " he would sometimes ex- 



96 TO THE SUN! 

claim. '^Our absence does not appear to trouble his 

excellency the Governor-General very seriously ! '* 

The sun rose and set twelve times on our islanders 
without producing any change in the general aspect of 
things. The Captain, note-book in hand, travelled 
around in all directions, always on the lookout for some- 
thing worth recording ; but the last two days he did not 
find much to note down besides the date January 5th 
and January 6th, according to the old calendar. The 
new calendar he did not like, and would not reckon his 
time by. He preferred the other for many reasons, 
and by means of his excellent watch he had no difficulty 
in keeping his calculations right. Ben's wooden clock, 
hitherto a pretty fair timepiece, was now actually good 
for nothing, change of gravity having made its pendu- 
lum move too slowly. But the Captain's watch, as said 
before, a magnificent Frodsham chronometer, enabled 
him to record every hour on his note-book with perfect 
accuracy. 

'^Captain!" said Ben, one day, seeing the officer 
approach the rock where he had been watching so long 
and with such little purpose, '' Captain, I 've been 
thinking of something I read long ago, when a child 
at school in Montmartre." 

^^ What is it, Ben Zouf?" 

•• That you 're very like the shipwrecked Englishman 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSER VA TIONS, 97 

in the story-book — all alone on a desolate island, with 
nobody in the world to speak to except myself, your 
man Friday ! ' * 

'* Oh, you *re Friday, are you? '^ 

''Yes, Captain. Not exactly a Good Friday, and 
still not quite a Black Friday! Ha! ha! ha!" and 
Ben laughed heartily at his little joke. 

The Captain appeared to relish it also very highly, 
and, when they had both got through their laughing, 
the officer asked Ben to listen awhile to the result of 
the investigations to which he had devoted the last 
few days. He then read for Ben a pretty full and 
accurate report of the condition — physical, moral, ani- 
mal, and vegetable — of the Island Gourbi ; so he now 
designated their present dominion. A short summary 
of this report will suffice for our readers. 

Its area was about twelve hundred square miles. (That 
of Long Island is about fourteen hundred.) Oxen, cows, 
goats, sheep, etc., were tolerably abundant, but their 
exact number could not be given. Game was quite 
plentiful, ''with no danger of its ever quitting the 
island," as Ben muttered, in an undertone. The 
cereals were well represented. In little more than 
three months later, wheat, Indian corn, rice, and othei 
grain crops would be ripe for the sickle. There was 
abundance of food, therefore, for the Governor and the 



98 TO THE SUN! 

Population of the island, and the two horses besides. 
'^And even in the contingency/' concluded the Cap- 
tain, '' that other inhabitants should land on our island, 
I have no reason to suppose — unless, indeed, they 
landed in exceptionally great numbers — that we should 
be at all likely to suffer from a dearth of provisions.*' 

The Captain's explorations had been finished just in 
time. The rainy season now set in. From the sixth to 
the thirteenth of January it rained incessantly. Heavy 
black clouds continually covered the sky, which no 
amount of raining seemed to lighten. Several furious 
storms also occurred — phenomena extremely rare at 
this time of the year. This was not the only anomaly 
that astonished the Captain. The temperature kept 
rising steadily. January soon felt almost as hot as 
July. Even then there was no pause. The mercury 
rose higher and higher every day as regularly as if, 
according to an expression the Captain used one day, 
they were making a ^^ bee-line direct for the sun ! " 

The light also grew more and more intense. In fact, 
our travellers felt that, but for the thick screen of black 
clouds that providentially covered the sky at this time, 
the solar irradiation would be too dazzling to be toler- 
able. 

But if this screen was an advantage in one respect, 
it was considered by the Captain to be highly objec- 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSER VA TIONS, 99 

tionable in another. It prevented him from ever ob- 
taining such a glance at the sun, moon, or stars as 
might enable him to form a jast conception as to what 
point of the universe the earth now occupied. Without 
a suspicion of the real state of the case, he had serious 
misgivings as to something dreadful having occurred. 
One glance at the sky would be enough to give him an 
inkling as to the nature of the cataclysm. But this 
glance he could not get, though he watched and waited 
patiently and hopefully every hour of the night from 
sunset to sunrise. 

Ben watched, too, just as patiently but not quite so 
hopefully. Wrapped in an old water-proof, he mounted 
guard every day on the top of his cliff, and, in spite of 
rain, wind, or storm, remained manfully there all day, 
contenting himself with a few hours' repose every night. 
Nothing ever appeared on the lonely horizon. Besides, 
what vessel could have ever made head against such 
violent squalls, in such a furious sea? The waves rose 
at times mountains high and the hurricane roared with 
inconceivable fury. Even Ben had to acknowledge 
that the sight of such phenomena drew him somewhat 
out of his general indifference. But the Captain would 
contemplate them with enthusiasm. They furnished a 
vivid realization to the hazy notions regarding a former 
state of things that he had studied in his school cos- 



lOO TO THE SUN! 

mography. Something like this, he thought, is actuall) 
taking place in the growing planets of to-day ; some- 
thing like this, he thought, took place in the early 
period of our own earth's history, when the waters, 
volatilized by the internal heat, were dispersed in space 
to an immense extent in all directions, and afterwards 
cooling, fell back to the surface in deluging torrents 
of incessant rain. Something like this, in all proba- 
bility, is going on at present in Jupiter — a theory that 
would at once explain that planet's monstrous appa- 
rent, not real, size, and its comparatively slight power 
of attraction. 

Indulgence in reflections of this kind did not prevent 
the Captain from noticing, on the 13th, that there was 
every sign of the deluge coming to a speedy end. The 
rain no longer fell in cascades ; the clouds broke con- 
siderably during the day before the violent wind ; and 
towards night they were driven flying all over the sky. 
The Captain waited for their disappearance with some 
impatience. Taking post near Ben Zouf, he watched 
the sun as it set, and the stars as they gradually took 
their places, one by one, on the azure vault. He felt 
himself thrilling with expectation. What was he on 
the point of discovering? Would that enormous disc, 
whose light had rendered it so perceptible the first 
night passed on the bank of the Sheliff, again make its 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSERVATIONS. 10 1 

appearance? Would anything be seen which might 
prove a clue to the nature and cause of the late strange 
experiences ? 

The wind had now swept away every vestige of cloud, 
and the sky was transcendently beautiful. Not even 
the faint haze of a summer night obscured the sweet 
quiver of the everlasting stars. There they blazed and 
glittered, spread out endlessly on the resplendent map. 
Never before had they gleamed so brilliantly in the Cap- 
tain's eyes. They actually seemed nearer. He could 
distinguish without difficulty certain nebulae that, he 
was certain, he had never been able to see before with- 
out the aid of a good telescope. 

He had some trouble in finding the polar star, but he 
caught it at last. Yes ; there it was, surely ; but how 
strangely low on the sky ! At the latitude of Mostaga- 
nem, it should be at least '^(y'^ above the horizon ; now 
it was scarcely io°. What was the meaning of this 
strange fact? Could the polar star have ceased to be 
the pivot of the earth's axis? What an absurd — but 
not at all — on the contrary, the conjecture was per- 
fectly justifiable and perfectly correct. Right before 
his eyes it sank lower and lower, until within the space 
of an hour it almost coincided with the horizon. In a 
word, it described the same sort of circle in the sky 
that we see the stars of any of our Northern constella 



I02 TO THE SUN! 

tions describing during the long hours of a clear sum- 
mer night. Polaris was Polaris no more. 

Next question — what star had replaced it ? Through 
what new point in the sky would the prolonged axis 
of the earth now pass? For an answer to this kind of 
question, nothing more was necessary than a short time 
spent in careful examination. The new Polaris should 
be motionless, in the first place, and, in the second, il 
should be the central point around which the other 
constellations performed their diurnal revolutions. 

These conditions, the Captain was not long in dis 
covering, were completely fulfilled by a certain star 
lying pretty low in the Northern horizon. This star 
he had no difficulty whatever in recognizing. It was 
Vega, the brilliant star of Lyra, famous for its bluish 
light. It was, in fact, the very same star that, in con- 
sequence of the precession of the equinoxes, is to be the 
Earth's Polaris twelve thousand years from the present 
day. But as twelve thousand years could not possibly 
have elapsed in the course of a few weeks, the new 
discovery only threw the Captain into greater perplexity 
than ever. 

^^Two facts,*' he found himself quietly muttering 
'^two facts — both quite incredible, I admit, but both 
quite incontestable — must have taken place within the 
space of a few days. i. The earth must be revolving 



FRESH EXPERIENCES AND OBSER VA TIONS. IO3 

on a new axis, since Polaris is no longer the pivot of 
the old one. 2. Since Vega lies so low in the north, 
the Mediterranean must have been removed to some 
region between the tropics ! " 

Lost in such conjectures, one more puzzling thai: 
another, his eyes wandered listlessly over the radiant 
sky, from the Great Bear, now one of the signs in the 
zodiac over head, to the strange constellations of the 
Southern hemisphere, many of which he had never seen 
before. 

^^The Moon ! " cried Ben Zouf, suddenly pointing tc 
an orb just then lifting its bright disc above the western 
horizon. 

Was it indeed the Moon, or only one of the inferioi 
planets enlarged by increased proximity ? 

The Captain examined it long and carefully with his 
excellent telescope. ^^That cannot possibly be the 
Moon," he observed at last. ^^It is too far away. Not 
by thousands, but by millions of miles, the distance of 
that heavenly body is to be estimated. It certainly 
looks as large as the Moon, but where are the ^seas,' 
the 'gulfs,' the 'ring mountains,' the 'streaks/ the 
splendid irradiating centre of Tycho, and the other fa- 
miliar features of our satellite which such a glass as this 
could easily discover? No ; that can't be the Moon — 
unless — who knows ? — it is that side of her on which 
the eye of man has never before rested ! ' ' 



104 TO THE SUN! 

^' Then it may be the Moon? " asked Ben, not liking 
to lose the credit of the discovery. 

^^No! ** exclaimed the Captain, with decision. *^It 
cannot possibly be the Moon on any account. The 
planet now before us has a moon of its own for a satel- 
lite ! " 

Even Ben had no difficulty in detecting the existence 
of a luminous point in the neighborhood of the new 
planet. It strongly reminded him of what he had seen 
long ago, when a boy, on the summit of Montmartre, 
on those lovely summer evenings when, for a sou, the 
telescope man allowed him a five minutes* peep at the 
planet Jupiter. 

^ ^ It can' t be the Moon ! ' ' the Captain went on, with in- 
creasing impatience. ^^ What then can it be? Venus? 
Mercury ? No ! These planets have no satellites. Yet 
these are the only planets whose orbits lie within that 
of the earth ! Neither the Moon. Nor Venus. Nor 
Mercury — Ben Zouf, I wish I had studied astronomy a 
little better! '' 



CHAPTER VIII. 

SOME OF THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. 

THE sudden appearance of the sun, dispersing 
every star, whether planet, satellite, or ^^ever- 
blazing orb," rendered all further observation im- 
possible till the following night. Then the Captain 
expected to discover something also regarding the 
enormous disc whose mysterious light, witnessed on 
the Sheliff the first night of the catastrophe, still con- 
tinually haunted his imagination. Not the slightest 
trace had he been able to discover of it ever since. 
It had completely disappeared, most probably because 
its erratic orbit had carried it too far away beyond his 
ken. 

The weather was now magnificent. The wind, after 
having driven off every vestige of cloud and mist, blew 
like a sweet zephyr. The sun rose and set in the new 
horizons with perfect regularity, leaving- the days and 
nights each mathematically six hours long — a proof 
that the new equator ran directly through the isle of 

Gourbi. 

105 



I06 TO THE SUN! 

The temperature, however, had increased so as to 
begin to feel decidedly uncomfortable. Looking at 
the thermometer, the Captain found, to his surprise, 
that the mercury stood at 90° in the shade, on the 
fifteenth of January. 

The gourhi still remained in its state of ruin, but the 
principal room in the guard-house had been fitted up 
very comfortably. The stone walls, built thick and 
strong expressly for these purposes, had sheltered its 
inmates completely against the deluging rains, and 
they nov/ offered considerable protection against the 
almost intolerable heat. Except morning and even- 
ing, the Captain seldom exposed himself to the sun. 
Not a single cloud tempered the burning rays. Senegal 
or Soudan, he judged, never had a more torrid climate. 
A longer continuation of such a temperature, he sorely 
dreaded, could hardly help burning every trace of vege- 
tation completely off the island. 

But on Ben the raging heat seemed to produce no 
more effect than the torrential rain. He never uttered 
a syllable by way of complaint ; from the perspiration 
alone, that flowed so abundantly from every pore of his 
body as to leave his shape on the rock whenever he 
went to his meals, could the Captain form an idea of 
his invincible determination. To advice or remon- 
strance he paid equal disregard. On his return he 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT, IO7 

quietly resumed his post without a word, and for the 
rest of the day swept the deserted ocean with his tele- 
scope as persistently and patiently as an amateur astrono- 
mer watches the transit of Venus. The Captain was 
lost in surprise and admiration. 

'^Not melted into a grease spot yet, Ben Zouf ! '* he 
exclaimed, one uncommonly hot afternoon that he found 
Ben sizzling on the burning rock. ^ • Why, you must 
have been born at Gaboon ! ' ' 

'^No; at Montmartre, Captain. That's where I 
learned to bear this kind of thing ! " 

The Captain could make no reply. Ben's invincible 
determination to lose no opportunity of upholding the 
honor of his native mountain, through thick and thin, 
struck him actually speechless. 

This ultra dog-day heat, in the meantime, had begun 
to tell decidedly on the productions of Gourbi Island, 
as the changed appearance of trees, shrubs, plants, and 
vegetation in general soon revealed. In comparatively 
few days the sap reaching the extreme ends of the 
branches, the buds burst, the flowers opened and 
bloomed, and the fruits appeared. It was the same 
way with the grain. You could almost see the ears 
growing on the wheat and Indian corn. Carpets of 
rich velvety grass overspread the valleys. It was all 
at once haymaking, harvest, and fruit time. The 



I08 TO THE SUN! 

glories of summer and the riches of autumn, com- 
bining together, formed a season both beautifully 
picturesque and singular in the extreme. But in 
spite of his admiration the Captain felt uneasy. The 
tremendous heats should soon put a sudden end to 
this state of things. 

But these new facts threw no additional light in 
the Captain's mind as to the cause that had brought 
them all about. It is true that, as often stated already, 
though no great adept in cosmography, he remembered 
enough of its principles to see very plainly that the 
axis of the earth must have been so changed as to 
form a right angle with the ecliptic, and that, conse- 
quently, things were now going on on earth pretty 
much as they are in Jupiter, where, the Zones being 
invariable, spring, summer, autumn, and winter are 
eternal ! 

This he could not help seeing. His consciousness 
told him its absolute and unimpeachable truth. But 
what did he gain by acknowledging it? The facts 
were so. The changes were undeniable. The phe- 
nomena were obvious. 

^'But, by all the wines of Gascony ! " exclaimed the 
puzzled Captain, ^^what could have given rise to it 
all?'' 

He soon came to the conclusion, however, that for 




THE WATCH-TOWER. 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. IO9 

the present he could spend his time much better than 
in either wondering or thinking. The busy season was 
on him, and hands were woefully short. Ben and him- 
self worked as hard and as long as the extreme heat 
permitted. The horses, too, were called into requi- 
sition, and between them all quite a supply of useful 
provisions was soon carefully and safely stowed away. 
Fortunately, however, very hard or long-continued 
work was scarcely necessary. They had still an 
abundant stock of stores untouched, and, the sea 
being now calm and beautiful, there was every rea- 
son to expect the early appearance of some ship. In 
fact, as the Captain said, some ship could not help 
coming soon into sight, this part of the Mediterranean 
being much frequented by vessels from nearly every 
part of the globe, not to speak of the French gov- 
ernment steamers constantly engaged on the coast sur- 
vey. 

Notwithstanding the incontestability of this reason- 
ing, for some cause or other no ship made its appear- 
ance. Ben watched as carefully as ever. Nothing in 
sight. He was melting like a piece of ice dropped on 
a hot sidewalk. Nothing in sight. He rigged up an 
old umbrella tent of canvas xnd grass on the summit 
of the cliff for the Captain's occasional accommoda- 
tion, and from its shade h^^' swept the dreary expanse 



I lO TO THE SUN! 

of waters with his long ship-glass, morning, noon, and 
evening. The old story. Nothing in sight. 

After the few days spent in stowing away provisions 
and taking stock, the Captain once more found that 
he had nothing better on hand than to tackle the 
problem that every day rendered only more and more 
perplexing. Upon his success he could not congratu- 
late himself. It was, of course, incontestable that 
both the earth* s rotation on her axis, as well as her 
revolution around the sun, had been considerably modi- 
fied. Consequently, the duration of her year could be 
no longer the same as it had been before. But would it 
be longer or shorter ? This question he could not an- 
swer. He had nothing to found an argument on. 

One thing, however, was perfectly clear. The earth 
was approaching the sun. The unparalleled heat showed 
this in the first place, and, in the second, it was set be- 
yond all doubt by the enlarged size of the sun's appa- 
rent diameter. It was at least double its ordinary di- 
mensions. This was about the size, as he faintly re- 
membered from his old astronomy class-book (what 
would he not have given for one now ?) — this was 
about the size that the sun has been calculated to 
present to the inhabitants of Venus. But the distance 
of Venus from the sun is about two-thirds of that of 
the earth. What conclusion to draw from this? One 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT III 

and one only. The visual angle increases strictly as 
the distance diminishes. Consequently, the earth and 
Venus must be now about the same distance from the 
sun. And still more astoundingly consequently, in little 
more than half a month the earth must have travelled 
in a direct road to the sun a distance that could not 
be less than at least twenty millions of miles ! Would 
this rate continue? Would the same line of journey 
be persevered in ? If these questions were to be an- 
swered affirmatively, only one result was possible. It 
was inevitable. The earth, dragged to the sun's sur- 
face by the irresistible force of attraction, should be 
instantaneously annihilated. 

But would this rate continue ? Would the same line 
of journey be persevered in ? The closest observation 
alone could solve this terrible problem. 

Even for the closest observation, it must be ac- 
knowledged, the Captain had every opportunity. Night 
and day were equally favorable. In clearness of atmos- 
phere and radiant effulgence of light the days were 
simply superb, but never before had the nights re- 
vealed the starry splendor of the heavens so magnifi- 
cently. There they lay, spangling the sky, planets, 
constellations, nebulae, flaming, gleaming, and glitter- 
ing with a resplendence that was actually dazzling. Un- 
fortunately, however, this richly illuminated manuscript 



112 TO THE SUN! 

the Captain could comprehend little better than if it 
had been a sealed book. Of the laws that guided the 
stately march of the stars across the ebon plains of 
night he knew about as much as he did of the laws 
that had guided the pyramid builders. His regretful 
remembrance of opportunities lost when he could have 
made himself master of the great principles of as- 
tronomy availed him nothing now. He felt like a 
man hopelessly trying to read a letter written in cy- 
pher of which he had lost the key. He began to 
lose courage and to yield a little to the gloom of 
despair. 

In this he was, no doubt, all wrong, and strangely 
forgetful of his favorite motto. But a sense of op- 
portunities neglected made him consider himself weaker 
than he really was. Besides, like all half-informed men, 
he overrated the advantages of a science of which he 
had only a smattering. He labored under the impres- 
sion that an astronomer's glance at the sky, like a 
general's at the field of battle, would tell him instantly 
all that he wanted to know. He little dreamed that 
even a Sestini, in the presence of these eternal fires, 
would be just as helpless as a child that tries to give 
a reason for the rhythmic movements of the ocean 
breakers. Under the present circumstances the most 
advanced observatory, provided with the most im- 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. II3 

proved apparatus, could have told him very little 
more than he knew already. In fact, the most care- 
ful observation of the fixed stars, it need hardly be 
said, could have told him nothing at all. The most 
powerful of our telescopes never make them larger, 
never make them smaller, never change their rela- 
tive positions in the slightest degree. We even know 
that, though our whole solar system is rushing towards 
a star in Hercules at the rate of 160 millions of miles 
a year, it would take thousands and thousands of cen- 
turies before the slightest appreciable distance in the 
relative positions of the fixed stars could be detected 
by the keenest eye. 

The hopelessly insolvable problem of the fixed stars 
left the Captain in such a state of discouragement that 
for a few days he could not bear the idea of any serious 
calculations whatever. His burning curiosity, however, 
would give him no rest. What part of the solar space 
did the earth at present occupy ? Where was it going ? 
Foiled in one direction, he attacked this problem in 
another. The fixed stars told him nothing whatever 
on the subject; why not consult the planets, particu- 
larly Mercury and Venus, whose orbits lay between the 
earth and the sun? Mercury lay too near (30 millions 
of miles) the centre of the solar system to be of much 
consideration at present, but Venus' s comparative prox 



114 TO THE SUN! 

imity to the earth, enables us to estimate with great ap- 
proximation the intensity of her sunlight. It is about 
twice as great as that received by the earth in ordi- 
nary circumstances. Now, by means of his photome- 
ter, the Captain ascertained that the light received at 
the gourbi was almost exactly equal in intensity to 
that received by Venus. This was a new confirmation 
to a conclusion already ascertained by a different pro- 
cess — the earth and Venus must be now at the same 
distance from the sun. 

Such a conclusion, a close inspection of the beautiful 
Venus herself did not tend to contradict. Never had 
Phosphorus,- Lucifer, Hesperus, Vesper, Evening Star, 
Morning Star, Shepherd's Star, Star of Love — even the 
lovely Queen of Night herself could not boast a greater 
variety of pet names — never before had Venus presented 
to mortal eye such an enormous disc as that now gazed 
upon by Captain Hector. It was a regular moon 
with all her phases, easily visible to the naked eye. 
New, half, three-quarters, full, all her changes were 
readily distinguishable. The edge of her outline, no 
longer sharp and regular as it usually appears to ter- 
restrial observers, was jagged and indented, showing 
her possession of an atmosphere, these irregular radia 
tions being due altogether to the refraction of the solat 
rays. Certain other luminous specks, very visible and 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT, II5 

quite detached from the edge, were no doubt some of 
the mountains which Schroeter calculates to be thirty 
miles high — an enormous altitude, five times greater 
than that of the loftiest of our Himalayas. 

These various considerations and reflections made the 
Captain pretty certain that Venus could not be much 
further off than five or six millions of miles. The 
thought alarmed him and disturbed him so much that 
he could not help imparting the fearful intelligence to 
Ben Zouf. 

^^Five or six millions, Captain!" was Ben's quiet 
reply. ^^But that 's what I call a nice, safe, and respect- 
able distance." 

^'Two hostile armies, I grant, Ben Zouf," said the 
Captain, ^^ might find fighting somewhat inconvenient 
when so far apart ; but for two planets such a distance 
is hardly a stone's throw." 

'^ What 's the difference. Captain ? " 

''No more difference, Ben Zouf, than that we shall 
probably run into Venus." 

'' Is there any air up there, Captain ? " 

''Most probably." 

"And water, too? " 

"Plenty of water." 

" All right then. Ho for Venus ! '' 

" But the shock, Ben Zouf! The two planets seem to 



Il6 TO THE SUN! 

be moving at present in opposite directions, and, their 
masses being pretty nearly equal, the collision must be 
as destructive to one as to the other.'* 

^^Like two railroad trains," observed Ben, who 
seemed very far from realizing the terrible significance 
of the idea. '^Exactly like two railroad trains. Won 
der which one will telescope." 

^'Yes, two trains, you simpleton!" exclaimed the 
Captain, out of all patience at Ben's coolness. '* But two 
trains rushing at each other with a velocity actually too 
great for your comprehension ! Whichever ^telescopes,* 
your Montmartre is gone up forever ! " 

Ben, touched to the quick, lost his coolness in an 
instant. Hastily springing to his feet, he gnashed his 
teeth, clinched his fingers, and for a moment became 
white as a sheet ; but he mastered himself by a violent 
effort, and when he spoke, after a few seconds' silence, 
a slightly trepid voice alone betrayed his emotion. 

^^ Captain! " he exclaimed, '^here I am, — give your 
commands. — Whatever I can do to stop this meeting—-' 
look on as done." 

^^ Nothing can be done, Ben Zouf. That 's the worst 
of it. No rudder, nor brakes, nor guiding reins for 
planets. They mind nothing but God, their maker. 
My only object in talking on the subject at all is to pre- 
pare you for the worst.'* 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT II 7 

''1 prefer to hope fo: the best/' answered Ben, now 
completely recovered, while he quietly lay dowm and 
resumed his telescope. *^ God is good. Old Montmar- 

tre is not gone up yet ! " 

Next day, about the same hour, after a night entirely 
devoted to observation, the Captain returned, and re- 
sumed the conversation, or rather monologue, for hardly 
a single word could be extracted from Ben beyond what 
the strict laws of military discipline required. 

^^We're getting nearer and nearer to Venus, Ben 
Zouf. I don't see how we can possibly escape. We 're 
approaching each other in a line that, as far as I can see, 
is perfectly straight. And even if we should only graze 
Venus, how are we to escape Mercury? He is now a 
little overhead, but 1 can easily see that he is rapidly 
wheeling right into line. I don't deny, however, that, 
danger apart, he is a magnificent sight. At school, 
when a boy, I hardly ever noticed him, partly because 
he was too near the sun, but principally because I never 
considered him an interesting subject. How often did 
the Professor remind me that ]\Iercury should be par- 
ticularly attractive, seeing he was the planet I must 
have been born under ! In vain did he- try to call my 
attention to his phases analogous to the moon's; to 
his intense brilliancy, produced by a sunlight seven times 
more powerful than our own ; to the peculiarity of his 



Il8 TO THE SUN! 

torrid and frigid zones, which, owing to the great in- 
clination of his rotatory axis, are continually changing 
places ; to his well defined equatorial lands ; to his moun- 
tains nearly twelve miles high ; to his well-earned claim 
to the epithet 'Sparkler/ bestowed on him by the 
ancients, etc., and so forth. I was the heedless scholar 
on whom the good old gentleman's learning, science, 
and eloquence were all equally wasted. Even when, for 
politeness' sake, I pretended to take an interest in Mer- 
cury that I was far from feeling, I acted my part so 
poorly as to come very near displeasing the kind, but 
serious and methodical old Professor." 

Ben Zoufy looking on all this as little better than 
Greek, made no reply whatever, contenting himself 
with laying aside his spy-glass and listening to his 
Captain with an air of respectful attention. After a 
moment's pause to take breath, the latter resumed : 

''How the old gentleman was delighted when, owmg 
to the fortunate coincidence of several favorable cir- 
cumstances, he was lucky enough to obtain a good 
look at Mercury ! How he scratched undecipherable 
pencil-marks on bits of paper and despatched us to 
the other professors with his compliments, inviting 
them all to come at once and enjoy the entrancing 
s'ght ! They never came, it is true ; but, no matter 
. jx that ! next time he had forgotten all about the 



i^jL DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. II9 

slight and Wai, scratching off his invitations as en- 
thusiastically as before. But what would he say if 
he were here h3w, when Mercury is actually more 
clearly distinguishable than Venus ever was ? What do 
you think he would say, Ben Zouf ? " asked the Cap- 
tain, suddenly, perhaps for information, perhaps be- 
cause he was beginning to get a little tired of his 
monologue. 

'' Captain,'* replied Ben, pushed for an answer, '^ the 
gentleman would probably say, 'Ben Zouf, stick to your 
ship, and never mind Mercury. ' ' ' 

The Captain, taking the hint, withdrew, after a few 
more desultory remarks, but he appeared again next 
day punctually at the same hour. 

'*Ben Zouf/' said he, after the usual exchange of 
salutations, '*my news this morning is partly good, 
but partly very bad. There is no danger to be ap- 
prehended from Mercury. Though at present ap- 
proaching us rapidly, a careful examination of his 
course last night convinces me that he will have passed 
a certain point of his orbit long before we can reach 
it. Mercury, therefore, is all right 1 ' ' 

' ' Vive Mercure I Hurrah for Mercury ! ' ' exclaimed 
Ben, having nothing better to say. 

^'But as to Venus," resumed the Captain; '^I am 
sorry to say she looks more threatening than ever. 



120 TO THE SUN! 

Comparing her present light and apparent diameter 
with those of two days ago, she cannot be now more 
than two or three millions of miles off. You must 
have remarked yourself, last night, that she cast a 
shadow quite as strong as a full moon's. Judging 
from spots on her surface easily distinguished by my 
naked eye, I could ascertain that her rotation period 
is still the same as it has always been — about forty 
minutes less than the Earth's twenty-four hours. I 
could readily trace the lines of the clouds that lie 
so heavy here and there on her vaporous atmosphere. 
The seven bright misty specks, called ^ seas ' or ^oceans ' 
by Bianchini, were plainly visible. I am even almost 
certain that my eye detected the outlines of the chan- 
nels by which these ^ oceans ' intercommunicate. There 's 
no help for it, Ben Zouf! We're hurrying headlong 
to certain destruction, as fast as ever the Earth can 
carry us ! " 

^'Captain," was Ben's only reply, one hand to his 
cap and the other on the seam of his pantaloons, '^I 
have the honor to make my report. No ship ! " 

^^ Report accepted, Ben Zouf," answered the Cap- 
tain hastily, as he withdrew to resume his observations. 

Next day, fully half an hour before the regular time, 
Ben saw his form toiling slowly and listlessly up the 
blazing slope of the cliff. He looked fagged out and 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. 121 

sleepy, and, in all probability, had not slept a wink all 
night. 

^^Ben Zouf," said he, as he took the comfortable seat 
that Ben had fixed for him under the awning, ^^news 
from Venus is, if possible, worse now than ever. Put 
your head outside a little and look directly over us. 
Now a little to the west. You see something there like 
a very brilliant little cloud with sharp edges ? Or rather 
something like a filll moon in the eastern sky on summer 
evenings an hour or so before sunset. That *s Venus ! 
Grand sight, isn't it? Only we can't imitate Napoleon, 
who, seeing something like it before the battle of Auster- 
litz, took it as a signal from heaven, and called it at once 
his Mucky star.* She will be anything but Mucky' to 
us and our unfortunate Terra Mater, But which of our 
astronomers, even in their wildest speculations, ever 
dreamed of attributing the destruction of our planet to 
such a source? " 

Ben Zouf not being able to answer this question, the 
Captain did not press it, but started off on another 
tack. 

'* What a terrible state our friends in Algeria must be 
in? But what do I say? What a state of awful conster- 
nation the whole world m.ust be in? What crazy articles 
will appear in the newspapers? And the crazier they 
are, the more voraciously will they be swallowed ! What 



122 TO THE SUN! 

innumerable and contradictory telegrams must be ex- 
changing from continent to continent? What crowds 
must be in the churches? They all think the end of 
the world is come ! And they 're right ! It is come ! 
But little did I ever dream that it would ever come in 
our own time ! Never mind your ship, Ben Zouf ! You 
will never see a ship again ! Has the Governor-General 
nothing else to do but send ships after you and me? 
Within less than two days, the twcf planets will have 
collided with a force sufficient to melt each other to red 
hot lava, or to knock each other into fragments number- 
less as the sands on the shore around us ! '' 

The Captain was here so excited that he turned 
hastily away without ever asking Ben what he thought 
of the approaching and appalling catastrophe. 

Next day he failed to come at all. He was either too 
much discouraged, or too deeply engaged in his observa- 
tions. Ben's regret at not seeing his Captain did not 
prevent him from keeping as close a lookout as ever over 
the widespread horizon. 

The day following, fully an hour before the time, Ben 
was delighted to see him springing up the incline with a 
light and easy step. His uneasy, nervous expression, as 
he entered, had all disappeared, and, though he still 
looked as if in want of sleep, his face beamed with a 
quiet smile. 



THE DANGERS OF QUITTING OUR ORBIT. 1 23 

^'All right for the present, Ben Zouf ! " he cried, 
cheerily. '' Old Te7'ra Mater has another chance ! " 

^^ How's that, Captain?" asked Ben, instantly jump- 
ing up and assuming the attitude of attention. 

^* The two orbits, fortunately, do not lie in the same 
plane. The angle they form, though small, is great 
enough to allow the planets to slip past each other with- 
out the least danger of harm. When we pass over Venus 
to-night, the two planets will be at least one hundred 
thousand miles apart." 

^*Only a hundred thousand miles apart ! " drily ob- 
served Ben, in pretended disappointment ; '^two hos- 
tile armies might find some difficulty in fighting at 
such a distance, but for two plan — " 

^^Talk about what you understand, Ben Zouf ! '* in- 
terrupted the Captain, hastily; ^^or," he added, as he 
retired down the slope, ^^if you must wag your tongue, 
thank Heaven for having preserved us all from a ter- 
rible danger ! " 

^*I thank Heaven fervently!" said Ben, lifting his 
cap and bowing his head ; '* but I never once despaired 
of old Montmartre ! " 

On January 25th, the Captain again put in an appear- 
ance. 

*^ Nothing wrong this morning, Captain?" asked 
Ben. 



124 TO THE SUN I 

* ' Nothing whatever, ' ' answered the Captain ; ^ ' J 
merely wished to call your attention to the fact that, 
though we passed Venus very closely, we could discover 
no trace of a moon in her neighborhood. This puts 
an end forever to the speculations of Cassini, of Short, 
of Montaigne, of Limoges, of Montbarron, and others 
who seriously believed that Venus had a satellite." 

^^ These gentlemen were no doubt all very great as- 
tronomers. Captain ? ' ' 

^^ Yes, very great astronomers, Ben Zouf." 

'^Yet they could be as wrong as the most ignorant 
of us?" 

^^Very true, Ben Zouf But I'm sorry they were 
wrong this time." 

'^ Why so, Captain?" 

^^ Because, if Venus had had a moon, we might have 
whisked it off as we swept past, and so we should now 
have two moons." * 

*' Seems to me, Captain, at present we haven't even 
one moon. I have not seen the sign of one since the 
night of the accident." 

'^ Right again, Ben Zouf. The accident, as you call 
it, took place nearly four weeks ago, and what has be- 
come of our moon in the meantime, I can't tell. That 
reminds me that I must go and make some careful ob- 
servations on the subject." 



THE DAXGERS OF QUITTIXG OUR ORBIT. 1 25 

'* Beg pardon, Captain ! " 

^^ Well, Ben Zouf, what is it? " 

*^ What do they call that building with the big round 
cap on its head, that I often saw on the other side of 
the Seine, from Montmartre ? ' ' 

^' You mean the Observatory? " 

"That's it, Captain. And it's probably so called 
because the gentlemen inside the big cap are all the 
time making observations? " 

"Precisely so." 

"Wouldn't it be just as well for us, Captain, to let 
these gentlemen go on making their observations, and, 
if they have any explanation to give on the subject 
hereafter, to listen to it like philosophers? " 

"Philosophers! Ben Zouf, do you know what it is 
to be a philosopher ? " 

" Of course I do, since I 'm a soldier ! '* 

" What is a philosopher ? ' ' 

"x\ philosopher is one who gives himself no trouble 
when trouble does no good ! ' ' 

The Captain walked away without uttering another 
word, and did not make a single observation the fol- 
lowing night, either because he was too tired or be- 
cause he thought there was something sensible in Ben's 
definition of philosophy. 

Next day he was getting ready to start for the wa^.ch- 



126 TO THE SUN I 

cliff, when he saw Ben quietly moving in the direction 
of the guard-house. 

''Well, Ben Zouf," he cried, as soon as the Or- 
derly was within good hailing distance, ''what's up 
now? *' 

"I'm come to make my report, Captain," answered 
Ben, still advancing, but with his hand to his cap. 

"Ready to hear it, Ben Zouf." 

" A ship in sight this morning.'* 

"A what!!" 

"A ship in sight, Captain. Nor' east by north." 

Before Ben had quite finished his report, the Captain 
was half way to the cliff, and in such a state of excite- 
ment that he left his sword and cap lying on the table 
in the guard-house. 

"I believe in my heart," said Ben, quietly, as he 
picked them up and started after him, "that nothing 
will ever turn my Captain into a philosopher ! " 



CHAPTER IX. 

NOTES COMPARED. 

THERE could be no doubt about it. A vessel was 
plainly in sight. Owing to the greatly increased 
convexity of the ocean curve, the keel was still out of 
view; but, judging from the comparative visibility of 
her masthead, she could not be more than six miles from 
the coast. 

The telescope was glued to the Captain's eye for 
several minutes. 

''The Dobryna/^^ at last he exclaimed, handing the 
glass to Ben Zouf, just coming up. 

*' The Dobrynal " cried Ben, much surprised. '' Are 
you sure of that. Captain? There 's no smoke visible.'* 

''She's not using steam; she's only under canvas, 
Ben Zouf. Nothing is more certain than that we see 
Count Timascheff's steam yacht." 

The Captain's state of excitement kept on increasing. 
A most extraordinary accident was about to set him face 
to face with his rival. The man he most desired to see 
at that moment was probably Count Timascheff. Not 

127 



128 TO THE SUN? 

that he bestowed an instant's consideration either on 
their projected meeting, or on the motives that had 
rendered it inevitable. Circumstances had occurred in 
the meantime of too wonderful a nature to allow him 
to attach the slightest importance to such trifles. His 
desire to see the Count proceeded altogether from hi^ 
intense desire to have his burning curiosity gratified by 
a long and serious talk on the one all-absorbing subject. 
The Dobryna, during her long, twenty-seven days* 
absence, must have visited not only the neighboring 
shores of Algeria, but also those of Spain, France, and 
Italy, and had, therefore, taken a hasty but comprehen- 
sive survey of all that portion of the Mediterranean that 
recent events had so strangely modified. The Captain, 
therefore, was about to learn what had been the nature 
and extent of the catastrophe, and perhaps even the 
probable causes of which it had been the result. Besides, 
the Count, an honorable and gracious gentleman, would 
no doubt be delighted at the opportunity of being able 
to restore the Captain and Ben Zouf to their native 
country. 

*' Where can she land?'' asked Ben Zouf. ''The 
mouth of the Sheliff exists no longer." 

''She'll not land at all," replied the Captain. "She'll 
just come to anchor in the first favorable spot, and the 
Count will then send his gig ashore." 



NOTES COMPARED. I2g 

The Dobryna now advanced more slowly, for the 
wind was astern, and it would be dangerous to get too 
close to these rocky coasts. They were evidently very 
careful on board, most of the sails being reefed. Very 
few threatening clouds, however, flecked the sky, the 
weather was exceedingly fine, the breeze quite man- 
ageable, and, accordingly, the yacht made fair head- 
way. 

From her course it was evident that she intended to 
touch on the island. 

^^How greatly the Count must be puzzled," observed 
the Captain, '^ when he discovers an island where he had 
left a continent ! ' ' 

^^And seeing no harbor. Captain," suggested Ben 
Zouf, ^^he may hesitate about approaching us too closely, 
and even start off for somewhere else." 

^'That's a fact, Ben Zouf. Let us find them some 
good mooring ground, and then send them a signal! " 

The Dobryna^ now passing them, was evidently making 
for the former mouth of the Sheliff. Not a moment was 
to be lost. Zephyr and Galette were saddled, and the 
riders mounted in a few minutes ; in less than a quarter 
of an hour afterwards, the Captain and his Orderly, both 
on foot, were carefully exploring the stretch of coast that 
lay south of the westernmost point of the island. 

They were not long in discovering a little bay pro- 



I30 TO THE SUN J 

tected by high cliffs on all sides except one, where a 
narrow channel permitted a safe and easy approach from 
the sea. It was exactly what they wanted. A vessel of 
moderate tonnage could lie there in perfect security even 
from violent storms. The Captain, however, was much 
surprised to find in it the tracks of a very high tide, 
evident by the long lines of sea-weed clinging to the 
cliffs all around. 

^^ What ! " he exclaimed, ^^ high tides in the Mediter- 
ranean ? Who ever heard of such a thing ? This must 
certainly have been an exceptional case, and is probably 
due to the neighborhood of the enormous disc that we 
caught a slight glimmer of in the beginning of the 
month. Now let us signal the Dobryna^ 

So saying, he waved rapidly to and fro a white linen 
handkerchief which he had fastened to the end of a 
long pole. The signal was evidently understood, for 
the vessel, slightly changing her course, stood more 
to shore and began furling her sails, leaving nothing 
but her gib to catch the wind. Quietly turning the 
western point, she soon caught sight of the little chan- 
nel, and, guided by the signals, steered boldly into it. 
In a few minutes she dropped anchor in the little bay ; 
the gig, manned and lowered, instantly set off; the 
Captain left his post of observation as quickly as he 
could, but on reaching the landing-place he found 




THE RIVALS. 



NOTES COMPARED, I3I 

the Count already on shore and looking around with 
the greatest curiosity. 

Cap in hand, he advanced to greet him with the 
utmost eagerness. 

'^ Count Timascheff," he exclaimed, ''I'm beyond 
measure delighted to see you ! But, first of all, tell 
me what in the world has been the matter ! " 

The Count, a cold, phlegmatic man, whose remarkable 
gravity presented a singular contrast with the unre 
strained vivacity of the French officer, took off his 
hat, and, drawing back a step or two, bowed cere- 
moniously, and said, in the well known and not un- 
pleasing Russian accent : 

''Captain Servadac, first of all allow me to assure 
you that your presence here is an honor that I did not 
expect. I left you on a continent, and I find you on 
an island — " 

"No fault of mine. Count, I assure you. I never 
left the spot ! " 

"I am aware of that, Captain Servadac; but I hope 
}-ou will kindly excuse ni}' non-appearance at our ap- 
pointed place of meeting. As soon as I shall — " 

"My dear Count," hastily interrupted the Captain, 
with a pleasant smile and in the heartiest of tones, "let 
us drop that subject for the present. We can resume it, 
wlien it is your pleasure, on some other occasion." 



132 TO THE SUN! 

^'As you choose, Captain Servadac/' replied the 
Count, putting on his hat; '^I shall always hold 
myself in readiness for your orders." 

^^And I for yours, my dear Count. Now let me 
repeat my question. What, in the name of all that is 
startling, has been the matter ? ' ' 

^^The very question I was going to put to you, Cap- 
tain." 

^'What? Youcan't tell — " 

^^I can tell you absolutely nothing." 

^^ You can't tell what is the nature of the cataclysm 
that has turned this part of the African continent into 
an island ? " 

'^ I have not the faintest idea." 

'^ Nor how far its effects have extended? " 

'^No conception whatever." 

^^But you certainly can say if the north shore of 
this Mediterranean — ' ' 

^'Is this the Mediterranean?" was the singular re- 
ply that interrupted the Captain's question. 

'^ You should know that better than I, my dear Count, 
since you have been just sailing over it." 

'^Excuse me. Captain, \ have not been sailing over 
the Mediterranean." 

^^You don't m.ean to say. Count, that all this time 
you have landed nowhere ? " 



NOTES COMPARED, I3J 

''Not for a single day, hour, or minute have we 
touched land since December the thirty-first ! ' ' 

For a few seconds the Captain looked like a statue, 
so motionless was he and dumb from surprise. 

^^ But, my dear Count," he at last observed, '^you 
must surely have remarked that ever since that day the 
east has taken the place of the west ? ' ' 

'^Oh, yes; we have remarked that.'* 

^^ And that the day is only six hours long? '* 

^^ Certainly." 

'^And that the force of gravity is considerably dimin- 
ished?" 

''And that too. Captain." 

''And that we have lost our moon? " 

'^ Undoubtedly." 

''And that we just missed running into Venus?'* 

" Precisely so." 

"And that, consequently, the Earth's movements, 
both of revolution and rotation, have undergone very 
considerable change ? ' ' 

"Nothing is more certain, Captain Servadac." 

" Excuse my profound astonishment, my dear Count. 
I ask these questions not with the idea of giving you any 
information ; on the contrary, I had the greatest expec- 
tation of receiving much from you." 

" I can tell you everything I know, Captain, in a very 



134 TO THE SUN! 

few words. On the night in question the Dobryna was 
moving along quietly towards the part of the coast in- 
tended for our place of meeting, when, all of a sudden 
■ — without an instant's warning — we felt the vessel lifted 
up, as it were, on the back of an enormous wave. Up 
we rose — up, up, to an altitude altogether too great to be 
even approximately calculated. The water was at once 
around us, above us, below us, and on all sides of us. 
Earth, sea, sky, land, light, darkness, seemed to us, for 
a while, to be mingled together in inextricable confu- 
sion, while, to the few of us that retained consciousness, 
the fearful noise was deafening in the extreme. Some 
of the crew have probably lost their hearing forever. 
From that moment to this we have been tossed about 
completely at the mercy of wind and wave. To the 
violence of the elements we could offer but little opposi- 
tion, the first effect of the shock being the disablement 
of our machinery. Indeed, it is still a mystery to me 
how the vessel was not completely destroyed by the 
furious storm that raged around us for several days. 
It seemed to be unchained, at once, from all quarters of 
the globe. The only way I should at all venture to ac- 
count for our safety, is by supposing our vessel to havf 
occupied a spot somewhere near the centre of the vas\ 
cyclone that enveloped us, and, therefore, to have been 
comparatively little exposed to its destructive effects, 



NOTES COMPARED. 135 

This is all I know on the subject. Your island is the 
first land we have caught the slightest glimpse of/' 

'^ In that case, my dear Count/' observed the Captain, 
still completely mystified, *^ would it not be well, with- 
out losing an instant longer, to take to sea once more, 
explore the Mediterranean thoroughly, and make a com- 
plete investigation of the extent and nature of the dis- 
aster?'' 

''That is precisely my own opinion, Captain." 

''Will you permit me to accompany you. Count Tim- 
ascheff?" 

"To the end of the world. Captain, if such a voyage 
would give you any pleasure." 

" Many thanks, my dear Count ; but, for the present, a 
voyage on the Mediterranean will answer every purpose." 

"Perhaps," said the Count, shaking his head. "But 
suppose a voyage on the Mediterranean was the same 
thing as a voyage to the end of the world ! " 

To this singular remark of the Count's, Captain Hec- 
tor made no reply, really not knowing either what to say 
or what to think. 

The plan of action to be immediately pursued was, 
however, soon decided upon. They were, first, to ex- 
amine, or rather discover, what was actually left of the 
African coast, and obtain at Algiers whatever news they 
could regarding the rest of the inhabited world; secondly, 



136 ' TO THE SUN! 

in case the whole southern shore of the Mediterranean 
had disappeared, they were to turn at once northwards, 
and put themselves in communication with the coast 
population of Europe. 

The state of the Dobryna' s machinery interfered a 
little with the immediate execution of this plan. Her 
engine required a general overhauling, the boiler in par- 
ticular needing some new tubing and other repairs. In 
spite of the Captain's impatience, therefore, the Count 
was unwilling to put back to sea instantly. He had 
great faith in steam, looking on canvas as slow and far 
from safe. The little time lost at first, he observed, 
could be easily made up for afterwards. The Dobryna 
had been expressly prepared for a trip in the eastern 
Mediterranean, and her coal and other stores were still 
untouched. These could be utilized for a rapid run to 
last as long as ever they held out, and then, of course, 
they could be easily renewed at the first convenient stop- 
ping-place. 

The Captain submitted at once with the best grace 
to this sensible reasoning, and found the few days 
required for repairing the steamer pass by almost 
unnoticed. He rode with the Count around the 
island, pointed out its most remarkable changes, 
showed him his various maps and sketches, and read 
him the reports which he had prepared for the Min- 



NOTES COMPARED, 137 

ister of War. In spite of his habitual phlegm, the Count 
showed himself intensely interested in everything. In 
the course of their rambles they passed by the little 
field in which they had agreed to meet in mortal com- 
bat ; but though the Count readily recognized the spot, 
he never appeared to take the least notice of it. He 
compared weather notes with the Captain, and, by way 
of return for the report, read him portions of a journal 
that he had kept pretty regularly on the Dobryna, He 
visited his vessel comparatively seldom, evidently pre- 
ferring to spend as much time as possible in the Cap- 
tain's company on the Captain's island. 

In taking their weather observations both gentlemen 
noticed and recorded a decided and steady fall in the 
thermometer, which, as may be remembered, had main- 
tained an extraordinary height for several weeks be- 
fore the Dobryna' s arrival. What did this lower tem- 
perature mean? Was the arc of the earth's orbit 
changing its general course ? Such a question as this 
would admit of no answer, however, for several days, 
perhaps for several weeks. The weather was still very 
fine; nothing more threatening could be discovered 
than an occasional accumulation of mist, which made 
itself readily felt by a slight depression of the baro- 
metric column. 

The reader must not imagine that we have all this 



138 TO THE SUN! 

time forgotten our friend Ben Zouf On the contrary, 
we have reserved the rest of tliis chapter to be devoted 
to him exclusively. The Count, fully appreciating his 
extraordinary coolness and clear-headedness, with traits 
of which the Captain never lost an opportunity of en- 
tertaining him, took a warm interest in Ben, and person- 
ally invited him several times to be his guest on board 
the Dobryna, during her contemplated voyage. But 
Ben, whom several long conversations which he had 
contrived to carry on with the boatmen had made 
unusually thoughtful and serious, felt himself com- 
pelled to respectfully decline the favor. Of course, 
he acknowledged that it would be a great pleasure 
to attend the Captain — but the horses? There was 
no accommodation for such animals on board, the 
yacht being built for a different purpose, and nothing 
could induce him to separate himself from Zephyr and 
Galette. Other considerations, too, urged him to re- 
main on the island until his master's return. Some- 
body, he said, should be left in charge of the new do- 
main, where, likely as not, strangers might land at any 
moment. The flocks in the immediate neighborhood 
of the gourhi could not be left altogether to them- 
selves ; they needed some care, as possibly, though 
improbably, they might prove, in course of time, to be 
the sole dependence of the islanders. Ben himself 
incurred no possible danger by remaining behind, 



NOTES COMPARED. 1 39 

and, for a while at least, he should not feel toe lonely. 
They would soon find out the state of things in other 
parts of the world and would then lose no time in re- 
turning to the island, taking him on board and restoring 
him either to Algeria or France, his native country. 

He was so earnest on the subject and spoke so thought- 
fully, that he easily gained his point. 

On the morning of January 31st, he carried the 
Captain's trunks and instruments down to the landing- 
place and arranged them carefully in the boat. When 
everything was ready, he bade the Count a warm and 
respectful good-by, and then, taking his officer's hand 
affectionately, he said, in a low, quiet voice : 

^^ Adieu, mon Capitaifie ! Should you ever happen to 
be in the neighborhood of old Montmartre, don't forget 
to see how he has stood this terrible collapse ! " 

Then climbing the rocks hastily and jumping on 
Galette, he made straight for the watch-cliff where he 
had patiently passed so many weary days. Quickly 
climbing it, he could see the Dobryna, now a few milea 
off, steering eastwardly under a full head of steam. 
As long as she remained in sight, Ben stood firm as a 
rock at his post on the old watch-cliff. There the Cap- 
tain, the Count, and the other passengers of the Dobryna^ 
telescope in hand, could see the faithful creature waving 
his cap, until the rapidly rising ocean curve at last cut 
him completely out of view. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT. 

COUNT TIMASCHEFF had not exaggerated the 
Dobryna^s capacity when he offered to take Captain 
Hector to the end of the world. Columbus, or even 
Magellan, never had such vessels when venturing their 
daring voyages over unknown Atlantic or Pacific waters. 
Built in the best shipyards of the Isle of Wight, the 
Dobryna was a model vessel, combining in the highest 
degree strength, speed, burden, and beauty of form. 
Just before the catastrophe she had laid in a supply of 
two hundred tons of coal, and provisions enough to last 
her while making a leisurely tour of the Mediterranean 
shores. Her short stay at the island of Gourbi had been 
sufficient to restore her machinery to perfect order. She 
had taken in no additional ballast there, very little being 
found necessary. In the new order of things she was 
much lighter now, it is true, than before. But so, like- 
wise, was the water. Her loss of weight, therefore, being 
counterbalanced by the lightness of the water, she lay 
just as deep in the waves, and moved through them 

140 




PROCOPIUS. 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT I4I 

almost quite as freely as she had generally done before 
the catastrophe. 

On reaching deck, the Captain found himself in pres- 
ence of a gentleman in naval uniform, whom the Count 
introduced as Lieutenant Procopius, the acting com- 
mander of the Dobryna. 

Procopius was a thoughtful, scholarly-looking man, 
about thirty years old. Born on the Timascheff estates, 
of parents emancipated some time before Emperor Alex- 
ander's famous edict, and carefully raised by the Count's 
family, he belonged to his patron body and soul, as much 
through solid friendship as through undying gratitude. 
Of good natural capacity, he had first studied theoreti- 
cal navigation thoroughly in the State school-ships ; he 
had then tested and solidified his knowledge by several 
years' active employment in the merchant service. This 
gave him such ready and available experience, that he 
had no difficulty in receiving from the board of govern- 
ment examiners the honorable diploma of lieutenant of 
the first class. Since then he had taken the sole charge 
of the Dobry7ia, devoting himself altogether to the grati- 
fication of the Count's marine tastes; he carried him 
around the sunny islands of the ^Mediterranean in winter. 
and in summer they explored together the sounding 
shores of northern seas. 

The Dobryna could hardly be in better hands, h 



142 TO THE SUN! 

skilful and experienced commander was efficiently aided 
by a devoted and intelligent crew. Six in number, four 
sailors, the engineer and the cook, and all sons of the 
Count's tenants, the Captain soon found out that the 
recent convulsions in the physical order of nature gave 
them no concern whatsoever. So long as their master 
stood by them, they were perfectly ready to endure any 
change and to face any danger. But the Captain soon 
found out likewise that the Count himself, in spite of his 
natural coldness and assumed indifference, felt serious 
secret alarm, and that even Lieutenant Procopius, though 
he pretended to think lightly of the matter before the 
men, was very far from being at his ease. 

The Captain had not been more than a few hours on 
board when, the western breeze having freshened into 
a gale, he felt himself the prey of a sensation peculiar 
if not absolutely unpleasant. He had never experienced 
sea-sickness in all his life — once, while crossing the 
English Channel from Newhaven to Dieppe, he was 
the only soul on board that w^as not afflicted — but 
he now felt himself suffering from something pos- 
sessing a close resemblance to that distressing malady. 
Much surprised, he questioned Lieutenant Procopius on 
the matter, and soon learned the cause. 

In consequence of diminished terrestrial attraction^ 
the molecules of water being much lighter, and con- 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT. I43 

sequenlly much more readily affected by the wind, enor- 
mous billows were the inevitable result. Arago, who, 
when measuring the height of the Atlantic waves in 
the fiercest storms, could never find one more than 
twenty-five feet high, would have opened his eyes in 
amazement at now seeing the Dobryna riding on bil- 
lows reaching fifty, perhaps sixty feet in altitude. Be- 
ing also much lighter through the diminution of gravi- 
tation, the heaving wave flung her up like a cork. She 
felt like a vessel sailing over a storm-tossed sea of mer- 
cury ; or, as the Captain said it, she went bobbing up 
and down like a chip of wood in a steep street gutter 
on a wet day. But, as the Lieutenant predicted, this 
jerky, chopping motion was only the beginning, and 
it soon came to an end. The billows formed them- 
selves by degrees into vast undulations, slowly swelling, 
softly sinking, miles and miles in length. The only 
inconvenience the Captain at last felt was a slight de- 
crease in \he Dobryna' s ordinary velocity — reminding 
him a little of his jumping journey to the Sheliff with 
Ben Zouf, the morning after the catastrophe, when 
their vertical course took them so much out of the 
horizontal as to considerably lengthen their road. 

In a few hours, however, the Dobryna was at tne 
eastern — the new western — extremity of the island, but 
without the slightest delay or hesitation she continued 



144 ^<^ 'THE SUN! 

to follow at about a mile's distance the line that had 
lately marked the Algerine coast. All sight of land 
being soon lost in every direction, the Captain was 
curious to know how Procopius marked the ship^s 
course. He certainly could not guide himself by the 
planets or the moon, since moon there was none, 
and the relative positions of the planets had now be- 
come very difficult to understand. Nor could he mark 
his position by taking his latitude and longitude by 
sextants or other instruments for observing the sun — 
latitude and longitude thus found being evidently use- 
less for charts made before the new order of things 
had been established. But the Lieutenant did not 
need much time to show him how he could point out 
on the chart the exact spot occupied by the ship at 
any particular moment, or, if not the exact spot, a 
spot approximately exact and near enough to the true 
one to be trusted in a short voyage like the present. 
Without the aid of sun, moon, or stars, he did it by 
what is called dead reckoning; that is, by the log he 
measured the distance of his courses, and by the com- 
pass he ascertained their direction. For, most fortu- 
nately, in the midst of all the trouble, the compass 
had neither varied nor been disturbed in the slightest 
degree. The vast cosmical phenomena that had upset 
everything else seemed to have exercised no influence 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT I45 

whatever on the magnetic needle. It still pointed 
north and south, making, of course, due allowance 
for the usual variation from the true north to be ex- 
pected in these points of the African coast. 

The Captain had very little trouble in exchanging 
ideas with the Lieutenant. Procopius, like most Rus- 
sians, could speak French perfectly, and was just as 
willing to give as to receive information. Regarding 
the cause, however, of the late phenomena, or even 
their precise nature, he could tell the Captain very 
little that the Captain did not know already. They 
had many discussions on the subject ; the Count added 
the acumen of a clear and well cultured mind ; there 
was a very fine scientific library on board which they 
often consulted ; but they soon came to the unanimous 
conclusion that now, at the end of the month, their posi- 
tive knowledge regarding the exact nature of what had 
taken place was not a bit more extensive than it had 
been on the very first day. 

A few mornings after leaving the island, the explorers 
were walking up and down deck, discussing, as usual, 
arguing, guessing, propounding different questions, offer- 
ing different answers, the subjects of conversation being 
the regular stereotyped ones, Where were they now? 
WJiat had happened ? What was going to happe^i ? 

'^ We agree with you completely in one respect, Caj)- 
13 



140 TO THE SUN? 

tain/* said the Lieutenant, replying to an observation of 
Servadac's; ^'the Earth certainly has abandoned her old 
orbit, and the new one she seems to follow has ap- 
proached the sun pretty closely/* 

'^More closely than Venus's,*' said the Captain; 
*' perhaps more closely than Mercury's/* 

''But not so closely, I hope,** observed the Count, 
*'* as finally to run into the sun altogether.** 

'' Where our inevitable fate would be an instantaneous 
reduction to ashes,'* said the Captain. 

'' Unless the reduction had occurred long before we 
ever got there,** rejoined the Count. 

''Gentlemen," said Procopius, quietly, "I think lean 
affirm, with every likelihood of certainty, that, at pres- 
ent, we are in no danger whatever of running into the 
sun. We are now describing a new orbit, it is true ; but, 
like the old one, it takes us around him, not into him.*' 

"I should like to hear some valid reasons for that as- 
sertion, Procopius,** said Timascheff. 

"Father,** replied the Lieutenant, giving the Count 
the title usually addressed to their lords by the Russian 
peasants, "I can give you reasons; but as to their valid- 
ity you and the Captain must decide for yourselves. We 
cannot be falling into the sun, simply because we are too 
slow about it. A fall into the sun becomes possible only 
by the destruction of our centrifugal force. If that was 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT, I47 

suddenly destroyed, the Earth, at her normal distance 
from the sun, would take only sixty-four and a half days 
to fall into him, as a short calculation can make quite 
clear. * ' 

''No doubt about that,'* observed the Captain. ''Pray, 
continue.** 

'^Consequently,'* resumed the Lieutenant, "we can- 
not now be falling into the sun. We have followed our 
new orbit for more than a month, and now we have only 
just passed Venus* s. That is, we have not yet reached 
even the third of the distance. And, latterly, instead of 
approaching him with accelerated velocity, as we should 
do in case of a fall direct, I think we are not even 
approaching him at all. On the contrary, I think that 
we are retreating from him. I think our perihelion 
point is past. Our temperature is certainly diminishing. 
The heat, at present, is no greater than it is usually in 
Algeria in midsummer, or elsewhere on the thirty-sixth 
parallel.** 

"Your reasoning seems pretty sound," observed the 
Captain, slowly. "I at least have nothing to urge 
against it.** 

"Nor have I,'* said the Count, "except that the 
second argument, founded on the diminution of the 
temperature, is much better than the first, based on the 
comparatively short distance traversed in a month.** 



T48 ^ TO THE SUN? 

'' Another conclusion, gentlemen/' resumed Proco- 
pius, after waiting a few moments for some other remarks 
from his auditors, ^^ another conclusion quite as evident 
to me, though possibly not to you, I would just now 
take the liberty of calling your attention to. It is, that 
one of the consequences of the tremendous and most 
mysterious cataclysm has been the sudden and uncere- 
monious translation both of the African coast and the 
Mediterranean Sea to the lines of the equatorial zone/* 

^^ There, Lieutenant," smiled the Captain, ''I'm 
afraid you 're making only a brilliant induction. You 
must prove to us the actual existence of an African 
shore." 

''And of a Mediterranean too," observed the Count, 
whose previous doubts on this subject were now rapidly 
assuming the consistence of certainties. 

"To resolve these questions, gentlemen, is one of the 
chief objects of the present voyage," said the Lieutenant. 
"So far, I am sorry to say, we have seen very little in- 
deed that can give the slightest support to my assertion, 
and I am really beginning to believe that your doubts, 
though monstrously unintelligible, have some appearance 
of being well founded. It is now two days since we have 
left the island; but, though continually on a careful look- 
out, I have not been able to see Tenez, anciently Car- 
ienna; nor Cherchell, anciently the fine Roman city 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT 1 49 

of Cczsarea ; nor Kolea, first inhabited by the Spanish 
Moors j nor Sidi Ferruch, celebrated as the first landing- 
[>lace of the French army when invading Algeria. These 
towns, Captain Servadac, the Count and myself have 
often visited, and we know them well. You can find 
them all carefully marked on this chart ; but no sight of 
them elsewhere ! I can't discover the slightest sign of 
the Sahel range, though one of its summits, Bou Zarea, 
rose more than thirteen hundred feet above the sea." 

He stopped for awhile to look over the chart, which 
lay on a drawing-table screwed to the deck. As he 
looked, they saw him suddenly start and rub his eyes, 
evidently in the greatest astonishment. He looked again 
carefully and thoughtfully, ran back hastily to the wheel- 
house, exchanged a few words with the steersman, and 
returned to his companions much disquieted, if not 
alarmed. 

'^ Do you know where we are now, gentlemen?*^ he 
asked, hurriedly. ^^Of course you don't. Neither 
should I, if I had not come at it by indubitable calcula- 
tion. We are at this moment in 36^ 47' north by 3^ 
14' east: that is to say, we are at this moment sailing 
over Governmejit Square^ the heart and head of the city 
of Algiers ! " 

'^Algiers, therefore, as well as Tenez, Cherchell, Ko- 
lea, and Si(ii Ferruch must have been swallowed in the 



150 TO THE SUN? 

waves!*' cried the Count, in accents of mingled grief 
and profound surprise. 

Captain Hector could not say a word. Of the correct- 
ness of Procopius's statement he did not entertain a 
doubt. His heart as well as his eyes told him it was 
too true. Withdrawing hastily from his companions, he 
leaned against the mast, and looked out gloomily over 
the cruel sea extending infinitely all around him. His 
heart almost ceased to beat. 

How well he remembered the morning when the un- 
paralleled panorama burst on him for the first time ! 
How deeply its chief points were engraved on his 
memory ! Cape Caxine, with its lighthouse two hun- 
dred feet high ; the beautiful church of Notre Dame of 
Africa^ crowning the summit of one of Bou Zarea's 
wooded spurs ; the graceful mosque of Sidi Abderraman 
peeping from the greenery of the Marengo Gardens ; 
Algiers itself, with its terraces of white houses resembling 
a gigantic staircase climbing a mountain of Carrara mar- 
ble; its culminating point, the Kasba, the old fortress 
of the Deys, commanding the upper town; Fort Emperor 
frowning down on both upper and lower ; Koubba easily 
recognized by the immense dome of its church ; the 
Hamma Garden readily traced by its avenues of gigantic 
forest trees ascending the verdant slopes; the Square 
House, a fortress commanding the entrance to the 




GAZING AT THE CRUEL SEA. 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT. I51 

famous plain of Mitidja, whose southern boundary was 
the main ridge of the Atlas Mountains; finally, Cape 
Matifou, with its lighthouse, on the eastern end of the 
magnificent curve that forms the Bay of Algiers. All 
this panorama framed in the green background of lofty 
mountains, many of whose peaks were wreathed in eter- 
nal snow, flooded by the magic light of an eastern sun, 
and floating midway, as it were, between the azure sky 
above and the blue waters beneath, had photographed a 
picture of ravishing beauty on the tablets of his memory 
that he could never forget to his dying day. 

And now it was all gone ! Algiers, the lively city 
where he had spent so many happy days, where he had 
possessed so many dear friends and agreeable compan- 
ions, swallowed up without a moment's warning, without 
a single wreck to tell its story. 

He leaned over the vessel's side and tried to peer 
into the blue waves. The wind was now still, the sur- 
face mirror-like, and the water as clear as crystal. A 
sudden idea struck him. 

''Over Algiers!" he exclaimed quickly. ''Then 
some trace of it must be left ! A great city cannot 
suddenly disappear like a cloud from a m.ountain peak ! 
Every sign of its existence can't have vanished in a 
moment ! Its high places can't be far beneath the 
surface ! Of the Kasba, the old citadel of Algiers, 



152 TO THE SUN? 

nearly four hundred feet above tide water, and of Fort 
Emperor, the new citadel, of the solidest construction, 
and fully two hundred feet higher, surely every sign 
can't have been completely swallowed up, unless, in- 
deed, the whole continent of Africa has disappeared in 
the ocean depths ! ' ' 

The Count and the Lieutenant now hastily ap- 
proached him. To them the same idea had also 
occurred. 

^^ Where are the timbers of the numberless frame 
buildings?*' asked the Count. ^^Some of them should 
still be floating around.'* 

^^Or the branches of the palms, the planes, the 
yuccas, and other numberless trees lining the squares 
and streets?*' cried Procopius. 

^'Or the planks, logs, masts, and other wood of the 
countless ships, that I myself saw here not quite two 
months ago, not only anchored in the port, but sailing 
in every direction around the splendid bay, which 
could not be less than twelve miles wide between 
Pescado Point on the west and Cape Matifou on the 
east!" continued the Count, looking eagerly all 
around. 

*^I can't believe in such a complete and overwhelm- 
ing destruction!" cried the Captain, catching, like a 
drowning man, even at a straw. 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT, 1 53 

And it certainly was very strange and even quitf; 
unaccountable that such a city as Algiers should have 
so suddenly sunk in the waves without leaving behind 
some mark to bear record of the overwhelming catas- 
trophe. But not the slightest sign of a wreck or waif 
of any kind floated on the quiet bosom of the deep — 
not a plank, not a branch, not a log, not even a 
buoy. 

The Count looked at Procopius interrogatively and 
doubtfully. But the Lieutenant, confident in the cor- 
rectness of his calculations, replied without hesitation : 

^^The Captain, as I am well aware, is, naturally 
enough, still incredulous. He sees nothing convincing 
on the surface of the sea. Let us try to convince him 
by ascertaining what is under it." 

One of the sailors, detailed for the purpose, threw 
out the line. To the great surprise of the Captain 
and the Count, but to the unbounded astonishment 
of Procopius, the lead, after reaching a depth of only 
five fathoms, sank no farther. 

^^ Something must have caught it!" cried the Lieu- 
tenant. ^^ Haul up, and fling out again." 

The order was obeyed. 

'' Four fathoms and a half! " sang out the reelsrnan. 

** Haul up and fling out again ! " 

'^ Four fathoms and three-quarters ! " 



154 TO THE SUN ? 

'^Head her south-east by south," cried Procopius 
to the helmsman, ^^and keep her so for five minutes ! " 
'^ Ay, ay, sir ! " cried the man at the wheel, changing 

the ship's course as directed. 

''What is the lead now?" 

''Five fathoms! " 

" Haul up and fling out again ! — What now? " 

" Four fathoms and a half! " 

In something like this way the operation of sounding 
went on for nearly two hours. It ended by convincing 
even Procopius that the bottom of the sea was singu- 
larly level, and that it lay at a uniform depth of no 
more than four or five fathoms below the surface ! 
This was simply astounding. Everybody knows that 
Algiers is not built like Philadelphia, on a wide plateau 
almost perfectly smooth and level, but somewhat like 
Genoa, on the steep slope of a mountain, amphitheatre- 
like, street rising behind street in terraces, to a height 
of five or six hundred feet above the sea. What had 
become of this extreme difference of level ? Could the 
ocean, after drowning the city, have not only filled up 
the streets with sand, as the streets of Pompeii had been 
filled with ashes, but also kept rolling in the sand, pile 
upon pile, until every irregularity of surface had dis- 
appeared, and the city, with its forts, palaces, churches, 
hills, and towers, was left enveloped in a shroud of sand, 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT 155 

like an exhausted traveller covered up in a deep snow 
drift, or, rather like a submerged forest of Siberia lying 
hundreds of feet below the ice-bound surface ? 

But against the above theory of Procopius, stated at 
fuller length and in more precise language, both Count 
and Captain loudly protested. 

'^What an idea!" exclaimed the Captain. '^It is 
simply impossible, because it is inconsistent. Where 
could such piles of sand have come from? " 

*^ What an idea ! " exclaimed the Count. ^^It is not 
only improbable, but inconceivable. How could the sea 
have risen to such a monstrous level ? ' ' 

*' Father/' replied Procopius quietly, *^ after what we 
have already seen, nothing is inconceivable. That my 
theory is improbable, I certainly admit. But, before 
pronouncing it impossible. Captain, we must first learn 
what we can by actual experiment. — Panofka ! " he 
cried to one of the men, '^tallow the lead well, sink it, 
and haul up ! — Now let us see what kind of sand lies on 
the sea bottom ! " 

In a few minutes they were all curiously examining 
the numberless particles of foreign matter sticking to the 
tallow attached to the sounding lead. 

** Why, it 's not sand at all! " exclaimed the Captain; 
" nor even gravel ! " 

*• Nor ooze, nor shell, nor anything else that 's usually 



rS6 TO THE SUN? 

dredged from the bottom of the Mediterranean ! '* cried 
the Comit. 

^'Really, it is nothing but metallic powder," cried 
Procopius, in a surprised and still more disappointed 
tone. ^^ See ! it glitters like gold, and decomposes the 
light like iridescent pearl shell ! ' ' 

**Your calculations evidently can hardly be right, 
Lieutenant," observed the Captain. ^^We are much 
further from the coast-line than you imagine." 

'^Impossible, my dear Captain," said Procopius 
quietly. '^In the first place, my calculations are made 
too carefully and check each other too frequently to 
admit serious error. In the second place, supposing we 
really were further from the coast, it is not a depth of 
four or five fathoms that we should find, but a depth of 
two or three hundred." 

'^ How do you reconcile the appearance of this metal- 
He dust with your late theories? " asked the Count. 

'' Father, I can't reconcile them," was the candid an- 
swer. '*I must say that I am now more nonplussed than 
ever." 

'^ Count," said the Captain, '' instead of continuing a 
direct easterly course, suppose we change it for a south- 
erly. This would soon turn every possible doubt 
regarding our distance from the coast into positive 
certainty. * ' 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT 157 

*^ Quite correct, Captain. Your proposition is prob- 
ably the best we can adopt under the circumstances. 
What do you think of it, Procopius ? ' * 

The Lieutenant approving the idea^ the helmsman 
received the proper order ; the Dohryna^ changing her 
course, sailed for the next thirty-six hours in a southerly 
direction. 

Observations were continually made, and soundings 
taken with the most scrupulous care. Everywhere the 
bottom was found to lie flat and at an average depth 
of four and a half fathoms. But soundings alone were 
deemed far from sufficient for a proper exploration. 
The bottom was carefully scraped by iron drags, and 
scoured by a dredge of the best pattern, made expressly 
by Ball of Dublin for a scientific examination of the 
depths of the Mediterranean. But it was all of no avail. 
The drags never met a bit of cut stone, a particle of 
metal, a morsel of broken branch, a stick of timber; nor 
did the dredge, which could have fished a penny from 
the ocean depths, ever bring up a single one of these 
minute shells which are found, millions to the cubic 
inch, covering the bottoms of other seas in layers count- 
less yards in thickness. What had become of the an- 
cient bottom of the Mediterranean ? What strange sub- 
stance was that which now covered its bed ? To these 
most natural questions, even Procopius now acknowl- 



158 TO THE SUN? 

edged himself unable to give anything resembling a 
sensible reply. 

The Dobryna, her course carefully marked every hour 
on the ship's chart, slowly and watchfully pursued her 
way towards the 36th parallel. She was now sailing 
over the Sahel, the lovely range of lofty hills that 
forms the north-western boundary of the fertile Mitidja. 
The Captain had passed a pleasant summer once in the 
very centre of this Sahel, and he could not now recall 
without emotion its charming walks along the old Ro- 
man or Arabian roads, shaded by the luxuriant and 
perfumed trees of the south, and every now and then 
suddenly leading into some open space whence the eye 
could wander over the distant Algiers, its sail-studded 
bay, or its hills spangled with villas of the daintiest 
Parisian style and koubbas whose white domes seemed 
to float on oceans of greenery ! 

They were soon over Douera, a few years ago noth- 
ing but a French fortified camp, a few weeks ago a 
flourishing and important settlement, the chief town 
of the Sahel district. In half an hour they were over 
Bou Farik, in 1830 a pestilential marsh, the habitation 
of w^ild boars and other savage beasts, lately a beauti- 
ful and healthy town, the centre of the Mitidja plain, 
and remarkable for its great fair held every Monday 
in the year. In less than an houi the Lieutenant an- 



THE CHASE AFTER A CONTINENT. 159 

nounced that they were sailing over Blida, the beauti- 
ful little city situated, as the Captain well remembered, 
at the south-western extremity of the Mitidja, the scene 
of several sanguinary encounters with the Moors, and 
protected by Fort Minieh rising nearly five hundred 
feet above the River Kebir. The Captain well re- 
membered having visited in its neighborhood the ruins 
of the former city destroyed in 1825 by a terrible 
earthquake which killed at the same time nearly four 
thousand of its inhabitants. 

Procopius began to get weary of this useless journey. 
It had not the same interest for himself or the Count 
as it possessed for the Captain. He showed no im- 
patience, however, but steadily held the ship's head 
still to the south-west. 

On they sailed over the Gorge of the Chiffa, where 
a road had been constructed more wonderful for engi- 
neering skill and daring than even the famous Via 
Mala of Switzerland. They should now be in the 
neighborhood of the mountains of the Mouzaia, with 
their legendary grottoes, mineral springs, precipitous 
slopes, but particularly remarkable for the famous 
Tenia or Pass more than three thousand feet above 
the sea, the scene of terrible battles in 1841 and '42 
against Abdel Kader's bravest battalions. 

Where was this bloody Pass now? Or the Dakla? 



l6o TO THE SUN? 

Or the Gontas? Or the Beni Salah? Or the Zakkar? 
Or the other lofty summits of the lesser Atlas? The 
sea, that had remorselessly engulfed them in its bot- 
tomless chasms, now rolled over them, smooth, calm, 
shining, like a mirror of molten silver. 

Servadac had intended to pursue the investigation 
a few points farther south, as far, at least, as the 36th 
parallel, where the Upper Sheliif had burst its winding, 
tortuous way through the foot-hills of the Great Atlas. 
But the complete disappearance of the Peak of Mouzaia 
seemed to unnerve him. He gave one steady, piercing 
glance for at least five minutes along the whole southern 
horizon from east to west. Nothing, absolutely nothing, 
but the long black line which hardly separated the 
water from the sky. 

His gesture of despair was instantly understood and 
acted upon by Procopius, who neither liked useless 
sailing in unknown seas nor marking his ship's course 
on a part of his chart intended to represent land. 

'^ 'Bout ship ! '' cried the Lieutenant. 

On the sixth of February the Dohryna found herself 
once more sailing in the former waters of the Mediterra- 
nean, about a mile north of Cape Matifou. Her south- 
ern trip had proved a complete failure. So far they had 
not discovered the slightest sign to show that what had 
been a short time ago the Province of Algiers, still existed. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. 

''T'^HIS southern trip had, however, established some 
j[ facts beyond all possibility of doubt. First, the 
complete disappearance of the land. But, besides this, 
something far more astounding, far more incomprehensi- 
ble. The bowels of the earth must have suddenly 
opened to swallow up an entire territory, and then as 
suddenly closed to lock it up forever in its vast profundi- 
ties. Lofty mountains had vanished without leaving a 
vestige behind, and a new soil, formed of some myste- 
rious and unknown surface, covered the shallow bottom 
of an unknown sea. 

So much was unquestionable, but the cause of it all ? 
This question as yet admitted of no satisfactory answer, 
but on its solution our travellers were still resolutely 
bent. The first step in this direction was evidently to 
find out how far the disaster had extended, and, with 
this idea steadily in view, the Dobryna once more re- 
sumed her eastern course. 

As before, she still pursued, as closely as possible, the 

i6i 



1 62 TO THE SUN? 

line of the former African coast. The navigation being 
now easy and the weather propitious, her time was good 
and her prospect of early discovery as favorable as could 
be expected. 

But from Cape Matifou to the frontiers of Tunis she 
saw absolutely nothing. Nothing of Dellis, lately a 
flourishing Arab town, formerly a Carthaginian colony, 
and afterwards a powerful Roman city named Rusucur- 
rus. No Jurjura Mountains in the interior, looking 
down on the country of the brave Kabyles from their 
snowy summits more than seven thousand feet high. 
No Bougie, so famous for its wax that it has given its 
name to the best French candles, and overlooking a bay 
that resembled a vast lake surrounded by perpendicular 
mountain curtains of the most original and picturesque 
contour. No Gouraia, with its slopes so dark and steep. 
No Jijelli, the Ilgilgili of the Romans, built on a rocky 
peninsula separated from the mainland by a low and 
narrow isthmus. No Cape Bougiarone, the most north- 
ern point of the Algerian coast, the spur of a mountain 
mass thirty-five hundred feet high. No Collo, the Kol- 
lops magnus of Ptolemy, clinging to the eastern slope of 
the lofty Jebel Gaufi. No Stora, the ancient port of 
Constantine. No Philippeville, the modern port. No 
Iron Cape, with its bare and ferruginous peaks. No 
dark crest of the Edour Mountains, terminating in the 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. 163 

Cape de Garda, so well known in the Roman times for 
its quarries of white marble veined with blue. No Lion 
Rock, a freak of nature which, according to Procopius, 
who furnished all these and many more details, bore 
a most extraordinary resemblance to the animal after 
which it was named. No Bona, one of the loveliest 
cities on the Mediterranean shores, formerly Hippo ^ a 
Roman colony, the birthplace of St. Augustine, and till 
lately presenting ruins of antiquity magnificent enough 
to surpass the grandest flights of modern civilization. 
No Cape de Rosa, where the finest coral was found. No 
La Calle, lately the liveliest coral market on the African 
coast. But now no coral greeted our travellers' eager 
gaze. Again and again the dredge was sunk. But all 
in vain. It still brought up nothing but the same 
strange, mysterious metallic dust. 

Here the Count called his friends together for a new 
consultation. They were now at the frontiers of Tunis. 
After quitting the Province of Algiers, they had fol- 
lowed the line of the Province of Constantina for 
three hundred miles without meeting the slightest 
sign of encouragement to continue their easterly course 
any further. What was to be done next ? Continue 
their present direction or attempt another southern 
trip? The Captain advocated the latter; the Lieu- 
tenant the former ; a sort of compromise between the 
two pleased the Count better than either. 



164 TO THE SUN? 

'^Let us push on in an easterly direction as far at 
least as Cape Bon," said he; ^^the sea there being very 
narrow between the African continent and the island 
of Sicily, we shall be likely to meet some peculiarities 
worth noticing. We can then turn southwardly, fol- 
lowing the new line of the coast as far as the Gulf of 
Cabes, where something has been attempted towards 
admitting the waters of the Mediterranean into the 
Sahara. There, and more especially in the vast de- 
pression of land, occupied at present, as you see on 
this chart, by the Shotts, or salt lakes, Kebir, Grarnis, 
Faroun, and others, we shall be most likely to find the 
great crack to which the disappearance of a considera- 
ble portion of Africa is probably due. Beyond that 
point the Tripolitan coast may have resisted the fear- 
ful shock with sufficient firmness to set an effectual 
limit to the further spread of the disaster. ' ' 

The Count had here alluded to a project started 
about this time to let the waters of the Mediterranean 
flow into a portion of the Sahara Desert, which was 
expected in consequence to become a vast inland sea. 
This great project, if successfully executed, should 
prove one of incalculable advantage regarding the 
amelioration of climate, productions, and inhabitable- 
ness, not only to Soudan itself, and all Northern Africa, 
but also to France and even to the world at large. 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND, 165 

The Sahara, as was said, being nothing but the bed 
of an ancient sea, whose waters, cut off from the 
Mediterranean by a sudden upheaval of land and 
thus rendered incapable of being renewed, had been 
all evaporated by the fiery action of a Lybian sun. 
To turn it once more into a sea, therefore, nothing 
more was necessary than to cut through the narrow 
isthmus forming the obstruction and thereby restore 
the communication. To show the feasibility of the 
project, and probably also to excite more confidence 
among the shareholders, Lesseps, the famous originator 
and successful engineer of the Suez Canal, a kindred 
work, had employed a few hundred men under Cap- 
tain Roudaire to do the preliminary work of cutting 
a narrow channel through the rocky peninsula that 
separated Lake Melghigh from the Gulf of Cabes. 
It was at this channel that the Count expected to 
find the vast scene of destruction come to a final end. 
Beyond it, in all probability, the firmer coast of Tripoli 
could still be seen emerging from the waters and ex- 
tending south-east towards the Gulf of Sidra. 

The Count's proposal was hailed with universal ap- 
proval. 

^^ Beyond that point," said Procopius, referring to 
the town of Cabes, where the channel commenced, 
*' it would be useless to extend further researches. If 



l66 TO THE SUN? 

we should still find nothing there but the sea extend- 
ing indefinitely towards the south, we shall have to 
turn northwards and seek on European shores the so- 
lution of a problem that as long as we continue in 
A^frican regions appears to be impossible." 

The Dobryna, accordingly quitting the Algerian, 
sailed along the Tunisian coast, at the distance of a 
mile or two as well as could be understood from the 
chart. Missing Capes Negro and Serat on her w^ay, 
she was not long in arriving at the site of Bizerta. 
But it was in vain that our travellers look around for 
some vestige of this charming little city, built in quite 
the oriental style, with its pretty neighboring lake and 
numerous mosques shaded by wide, spready palms. ^* A 
fiat and shallow bottom with metallic dust for sand," 
was still the report made by the leadsman. 

Turning the site of Cape Blanco, the most northern 
point in the African continent, the vessel entered, on the 
seventh of February, the Bay of Tunis, or at least what 
was so till lately. For of this splendid bay nothing now 
was to be seen. Tunis itself, built like so many other 
Mediterranean towns in the style of an amphitheatre, its 
fortress the Kasba, its port and arsenal Goletta, the 
lofty peaks of Bou Kournein, even Cape Bon at the 
other extremity of this bay, formerly the Gulf of Car- 
thage, had all disappeared, all apparently absorbed, like 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. 167 

the rest of the continent, in the black jaws of the 
mighty caverns that lay beneath the rolling sea. 

Instead, however, of immediately turning south, the 
Dobry7ia pursued for a while an eastern course in the 
direction of Cape Bon, to make certain investigations 
alluded to already by Count Timascheff. Both he and 
Procopius, to whom every peculiarity of the Mediterra- 
nean region was perfectly familiar, was well aware that 
ii5 these latitudes the Mediterranean, generally very 
deep, became suddenly shallow, a ridge, like a sub- 
merged mountain chain, extending all the way under the 
waves from Cape Bon in Africa to Cape Boeo, the ex- 
treme w^estern point of Sicily. In fact, both these ama- 
teur explorers had very little doubt that, in ancient 
times, Europe had been united to Africa at this par- 
ticular point as well as at the Straits of Gibraltar, a thou- 
sand miles further west, where the two continents are 
still only about fifteen miles apart. This ridge, as they 
had often ascertained, lay under the surface at a depth 
of only fifty or sixty feet, whereas, at a short distance on 
each side, a sudden depression sank the bottom to a 
depth of more than five hundred feet. To ascertain if 
the great inequalities of level due to this steep submarine 
crest crossing the Lybian Strait still existed, was now the 
object of the Dobrynd' s proceedings. Procopius super- 
intended them ; the Count and the Captain, of course, 



l68 TO THE SUN? 

equally interested, watched every detail of the sound- 
ing. 

'^ Fling! *' cried Procopius to the helmsman. 

''Ay, ay, sir ! " 

A few minutes elapsed. 

''Haul in!** 

"Ay, ay, sir ! ** 

" How many fathoms? '* 

"Five!*' 

"The bottom?** 

"Flat!** 

To the helmsman, "Turn her head directly north, and 
keep her so for fifteen minutes ! ** 

"Ay, ay, sir ! ** 

After a quarter of an hour — 

" Let go the sounding-line ! ** 

"Ay, ay, sir ! ** 

" Haul in ! — How many fathoms ? " 

" Five and a quarter ! ** 

" Any sand or shell ? '* 

" None ! Same as before — metallic dust ! *' 

" Turn her head round, and steer directly east for ten 
minutes ! * * 

Again the same operation was attended with exactly 
the same results. Everywhere five fathoms ! Every- 
where a flat and level bottom ! Everywhere the same 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. 1 69 

unknown metallic dust ! No sand, or sponge, or coral, or 
hydrophytes of any kind — no sea-weed even, which had 
been here till now so remarkably superabundant. The 
submerged crest existed no more. The cataclysm must 
have reduced the whole bed of the Mediterranean to the 
same uniform and ubiquitous level. 

Further explorations of this kind being now evidently 
useless, the Dobryna wheeled round and, as had been 
agreed upon, headed directly south. 

Another of the astonishing peculiarities of this most 
perplexing voyage, was the complete and total absence 
of anything like a sail on this most strange and dreary 
sea. How eagerly our travellers' eyes swept the horizon 
in search of a vessel ! Even an unpretending fishing- 
boat might be able to give them some important point 
of the information they were dying to know. But 
nothing could be seen. Look whichever way they 
might and as long as ever they would, absolutely 
nothing. The Dobryna was apparently the only vessel 
that gave any signs of life in this Sahara of water. The 
isolation was growing every day more appalling, more 
dispiriting, more crushing. Was their little yacht the 
only vessel freighted with life that sailed on the waters 
of the terrestrial globe? Was she, indeed, a new Noah's 
ark, holding the sole human survivors of a catastrophe 



I/O TO THE SUN? 

than which even the mighty Deluge was not more 
terrible ? 

On February 9 they had crossed the 37th parallel, and 
were sailing in the direction of Queen Dido's fortress 
city, Byrsa, now not more completely destroyed than 
old Carthage of which it had been so long the citadel, 
or than new Carthage razed to its foundations by Has- 
san the Sassanide towards the end of the eighth century. 

That very evening, just as the sun was fast approach- 
ing the eastern horizon. Captain Hector, leaning on the 
taffrail, absorbed in disquieting reflections, and peering 
out over the dreary expanse of sea stretching darkly 
before him far into the unknown south as if into infinity, 
suddenly imagined that he had beheld the twinkling of 
a light. Fearing it was only imagination, he looked 
again with fixed and ardent gaze in the same direction. 
Yes ! there it was again ! a light beyond all doubt ! 
But, to make assurance doubly sure, he called up a 
sailor and, pointing ahead, asked him if he saw any- 
thing. Yes : the sailor saw a light distinctly. 

^^Tell the Count and the Lieutenant to please come 
on deck immediately ! '* 

The sailor disappeared ; and in a few seconds the 
three gentlemen, telescope in hand, were eagerly discuss- 
ing the nature of the light. 

' ' Land ? ' ' asked Servadac, eagerly. 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. I/l 

*^ Or a light- ship ? '* suggested the Count. 

Both looked at Procopius, who, however, made no 
reply. 

*' Another hour will tell us all about it/* said the 
Captain. 

"Afraid not/' said Procopius, still with eye to glass. 

'^ Why not, Procopius?'' asked the Count, much sur- 
prised. ^'Are you not going to head her for the light?" 

**That light, Father, could not be reached before 
dark," answered the Lieutenant. ^^ I should prefer lying 
around here till morning. We cannot be very far now 
from the site of the ruins of Carthage. We have not 
been here before, and I must say that, as a careful sailor, 
I should prefer not to approach too closely during the 
night-time." 

^*As you please. Lieutenant," said the Count. 
'* Captain, we must smother our impatience as well as 
we can till morning." 

The Dobryna^ taking in sail and cutting off steam, 
slackened her pace so as to make no more than a few 
miles slowly during the whole night. 

Even a whole night of six hours is not very long ; but 
this particular one was a whole century to the Captain. 
He never quitted the deck, and would hardly take his 
eyes a moment off the light for fear he should never find 
it again if once lost. But there it remained, glimmer- 



1/2 TO THE SUN/ 

ing steadily all night through the darkness, like the 
lantern of a lighthouse of the second rank seen at about 
fifteen miles' distance. 

^^ And always in the same spot," observed Procopius 
to the Captain, who had made the comparison. 

^^It must be land then ! " cried Servadac. '^ No ship 
could be so motionless ! ' ' 

^^ Unless a light-ship, Captain," quietly persisted the 
Count. 

Morning came at last, and the light instantly disap- 
peared before the rays of the rising sun. But, in its 
place, at a distance of five or six miles, suddenly arose 
the black speck of an islet in the midst of this deserted 
sea. 

^^No light-ship ! " exclaimed the Count, after a care- 
ful glance with his telescope. ^^More probably the 
peak of a submerged mountain ! " 

In a quarter of an hour they were near enough to 
examine it at their ease. 

It was a kind of rocky hill, bare, sterile, steep, flat, 
rising out of the waves to a height of forty or fifty feet. 
No reef forbade approach to the shore — a proof, as 
Procopius remarked, that the summit had sunk gradu- 
ally and slowly under the influence of some inexplica- 
ble phenomenon until, finally reaching some solid foun- 
dation, it had sunk no farther. 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. 1/3 

'^That's a very remarkable-looking building on its 
summit!" cried the Captain, whose sharp eyes ena- 
bled him to catch distant outlines with great readi- 
ness. ''Where there's a house there is an inhabi- 
tant!'' 

''There was at least!" said the Count, senten- 
tiously, and with a slight shrug of the shoulders. 

" That 's a problem of easy solution," said Procopius, 
touching off the little cannon always standing on deck, 
ready for signalling. A muttering as of distant thun- 
dering was re-echoed from the rocky islet by way of 
reply. But this was all. No living being, animal or 
human, moved over its cheerless surface. 

By this time they were near enough, however, to see 
very distinctly the building, somewhat reminding them 
of a Christian votive chapel, that crowned the summit 
of the rock. It was, of course, to be at once entered 
and thoroughly explored. In a few minutes the ves- 
sel's yawl, rowed by four seamen, landed Count, Cap- 
tain, and Lieutenant at the base of the rock just under 
the chapel. Jumping ashore and climbing an ascent 
of some ruined steps, they were not long reaching the 
summit. Here they were abruptly stopped for a while 
by a wall incrusted, inlaid, and covered with the wrecks 
of old ornaments, such as vases, pillars^ statues^ in- 



174 TO THE SUN? 

scriptions, and pedestals, all tossed about or lying upon 
each other in the utmost disorder. 

Turning to the left and following the wall for a short 
distance, our travellers reached an open doorway, which 
they immediately entered. Here they found themselves 
on the esplanade that surrounded the temple. Standing 
in the centre, on a platform reached by ruined steps 
of a circular shape, was an octagonal building sur- 
mounted by a dome, from whose summit a glittering 
cross reflected the bright rays of the morning sun. 
An open doorway gave access to the temple's interior, 
which they entered respectfully, hat in hand. The 
walls all around were sculptured and ornamented in 
the Moorish-Gothic style that is so much sought after 
of late in many European countries. But in the 
middle point of the only apartment of the building, 
right under the dome, stood an altar-like tomb quite 
impressive in its simplicity. Behind the tomb the 
building had been considerably injured by the shock, 
and among the brick and mortar rubbish might be seen 
portions of a white marble statue broken into number- 
less fragments. Above the tomb hung an enormous 
silver lamp whose reservoir still contained several gal- 
lons of oil; a long wick, rising in the centre, still 
burned with a steady flame — evidently the light tha? 
had caught their attention the previous evening. 




THE CHAPEL. 



A DISCOVERY OF SOME KIND. I/S 

The building was completely deserted ; no sign of its 
inhabitants could be found ; its guardians had probably 
escaped in time to avoid destruction. A few cormo- 
rants alone, which had taken refuge within its walls, 
disturbed by the approach of visitors, flew out hur- 
riedly, and made their way towards the south, filling 
the air with discordant cries. On a corner of the tomb 
lay an old French missal ; it was open at the page 
devoted to the festival of the twenty-fifth of August. 

A sudden revelation flashed like lightning through 
the Captain. The locality of the islet, the isolated 
tomb in the midst of the sea, the page which the last 
reader of the missal had been perusing — all told him 
at what particular spot himself and his companions now 
found themselves, and that it could be no other ! 

''Saint Louis's tomb, gentlemen!'* he cried. ''It 
was on this very spot that our martyr king died in 1270, 
surrounded by a plague-stricken army ! " 

"And this is the chapel that was built in 1842 in the 
midst of the ruins of Byrsa, on the site of the ancient 
temple of ^sculapius I ' ' exclaimed Procopius, rapidly 
taking a note for the benefit of his chart. 

" Nothing can be truer! " exclaimed the Count. "It 
is well known that the Bey of Tunis generously presented 
the French government with the hill of Byrsa, a spot 
particularly dear to France as the consecrated scene of 



1/6 TO THE SUN? 

ilie glorious death of one of her greatest and most 
beloved monarchs. ' ' 

And so indeed it was. Here had one of the noblest 
mortals that ever sat on a king's throne breathed his 
last sigh six hundred years before ! And here, after six 
hundred years of grateful memory, had pious French 
hands been guarding his lonely tomb ! 

The Captain bowed before it with unspeakable emo- 
tion. His companions imitated him with heartfelt sym- 
pathy and profound respect. 

This lamp, life's emblem, now burning over a saint's 
tomb, was perhaps the only light-house that illuminated 
the endless waters of the Mediterranean ! This lamp, 
again life's einblem, was soon to be extinguished for- 
ever ! 

Nothing more could be discovered on the rocky sum- 
mit of Byrsa's acropolis. 

Our explorers, soon on board, faced the Dobryna's 
head to the south, and quickly lost sight of Saint Louis's 
tomb, the only point on the Tunisian coast spared by 
the late terrible and still most mysterious catastrophe. 




THE TOMB. 



CHAPTER XII. 

AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. 

IT was towards the south that the startled cormorants^ 
quitting the sainted king's lonely tomb, had winged 
their rapid flight. Was this a sign of land lying at 
no great distance in that direction ? Somewhat buoyed 
by such a hope, the Dobryna' s crew felt the time pass 
quickly as they glided over the peninsula of Dakhal that 
had till lately separated the Bay of Tunis from the Gulf 
of Hamamet. The sea being smooth and the wind 
steadily blowing from the north-west, in two days they 
reached the thirty-fourth parallel, the latitude of the 
Gulf of Cabes. 

It was here, as may be remembered, that they had ex- 
pected to see the preliminary operations of Lesseps* and 
Roudaire's famous undertaking, by which the waters of 
the Mediterranean were to be allowed to fill up the great 
depressions of the Tritonis Palus of the ancients, and 
thus form a vast internal sea. But no sign of channel or 
peninsula, of lighter or ship of any kind, was yet to be 



178 . TO THE SUN? 

seen. The liquid plains of dark azure still extended 
endlessly to the east and endlessly to the west. 

But how was it towards the south? Did not those 
blackish-gray clouds, maintaining their shapes so stead- 
fastly on the southern horizon, look somewhat like land ? 

''No land can be there! '* cried Procopius, pointing 
to his chart, '^ at least no land of that character. 
The coast of Tripoli, the only land in that direction, 
is so low and flat that it cannot be seen at any such 
distance. Besides, it is at least sixty miles farther 
south !'^ 

But in less than five minutes after he had spoken these 
words, the man at the mast-head sang out ''Land! '* and 
the cry of "Land ahead ! " was repeated a few seconds 
afterwards by the watch on the foredeck. 

There could be no doubt at all about the matter. A 
long ridge of high mountains, strongly indented, soon 
appeared in sight. Extending east and west as far as 
the eye could see, they enclosed the northern half of the 
Gulf of Cabes, and completely hid from view the isle of 
Jerba its southern boundary. 

"This puts an end, at least for the present, to the 
Sahara project," said Procopius, carefully marking 
down the newly discovered land in his chart. 

"Wonder on wonder 1 " cried Captain Hector. "So 
far the Mediterranean has taken the place of a conti- 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. 1 79 

nent ; now we find a continent to take the place of 
the Mediterranean ! ' * 

^^ It was about here, however, that we expected to 
find some trace of land," observed Count Timascheff. 
'^And our expectations are realized, though the great 
crack is certainly somewhat farther to the south than 
we had calculated. What's to be done now? That 
range of mountains is too unbroken to admit a passage ; 
and that coast is too steep to admit of much nearer 
approach. We must evidently sail either east or west. 
Which shall it be ? " 

^'West, my dear Count, by all means!" cried the 
French officer, eagerly. ^^I should like to ascertain, 
in the first place, if there is anything left of our Al- 
gerian colony on the south of the Sheliif, and, in the 
second place, we could call at Gourbi for Ben Zouf, 
and then push on as far as Gibraltar, where we should 
most probably learn what has taken place in Europe ! ' ' 

'^Captain Servadac," answered the Count, with most 
gracious politeness, '^ the yacht is entirely at your ser- 
vice. Procopius, take the Captain's orders." 

^^ Before you decide finally. Captain," said Procopius, 
'^ I should take it as a favor if you, and the Count also, 
would listen to an observation I have to make on the 
subject." 

^'Certainly, my dear Lieutenant," replied the Cap- 
tain. 



l8o TO THE SUNT 

*' Speak, Procopius/* answered the Count. 

*'The wind,'* continued Procopius, *Mias been blow- 
ing steadily from the north-west for some days. It is 
now veering to the west and decidedly freshening up. 
With steam at high pressure we could of course make 
some headway against it, but not much, and even that 
with considerable difficulty. We should not be able 
to reach Gibraltar in less than two or three weeks at 
soonest; whereas, by taking advantage of the present 
favorable breeze, we may succeed in reaching Egypt 
in five or six days. At Alexandria or elsewhere we 
might readily obtain all the intelligence they could 
give us at Gibraltar.*' 

^' What do you think of the Lieutenant's amendment, 
Captain ? ' ' asked Timascheff. 

^'I think it excellent, my dear Count," replied the 
Captain, without a moment's hesitation. ^'Whatever 
natural desire I may have to learn something about 
the Province of Oran and to see Ben Zouf, I am still 
more desirous to pursue what is certainly the best plan 
for gratifying the general curiosity at the earliest pos- 
sible moment. ' ' 

The Dobrynd' s head was accordingly turned east, 
and for the following two days, under wind and steam, 
she followed the line of the new coast, at a distance 
of at least three or four miles from its dangerous pre- 
cincts. 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND, l8l 

For some time past the explorers had been too busily 
occupied with terrestrial to devote themselves much to 
celestial observations, but now, having comparatively 
little else to do, they began to interchange ideas as 
to the present position of the earth in the regions of 
solar space. 

^^What is the thermometer this morning?" asked 
the Captain of Procopius as the three gentlemen met 
on deck after breakfast. They were rather warmly 
clad and found brisk motion backwards and forwards 
not unpleasant. 

^'59° Fahrenheit. '* 

(Procopius really said '^15° Centigrade,** but here, 
as on many other occasions, we modify the exact lan- 
guage a little to save the English reader somewhat 
troublesome calculations.) 

' ' Tumbling rapidly ! ' ' observed the Captain. ^ ^ Within 
the last few weeks it must have sunk thirty or forty de- 
grees.'* 

^'That's exactly what we have to expect,*' observed 
the Count, ^^ if Procopius is right regarding our in- 
creasing remoteness from the sun." 

''On that subject I have very little doubt left," said 
the Lieutenant. ''In the beginning of this month we 
were at the same distance from the sun that we had been 
at in the beginning of the last, though in the middle 



1 82 TO THE SUN? 

of January we had been much nearer. This shows 
that we went around him. That is, we did our peri- 
helion, and we are now fairly started for our aphelion. 
It is all made evident not only by the gradual change 
of temperature but also by the gradual diminution of 
the sun's disc. Look at him now, gentlemen. I have 
examined his diameter very carefully with my instru- 
ments, and have ascertained that he presents precisely 
the same appearance to us now that he would if we were 
inhabitants of the planet Mars. The conclusion is ir- 
resistible. We quitted the Earth's old orbit in the first 
place; we then cut Venus's and Mercury's; we doubled 
the Sun; we cut Mercury's and Venus's again; we 
have just past the Earth's; and we are now approaching 
Mars, whose orbit, I have no doubt, we shall soon cut, 
as we have cut the others. Our own new orbit, there- 
fore, if an ellipse, is very much flattened and, of course, 
very much prolonged. But it may not be an ellipse at 
all. It may be an open hyperbolic curve, in which case 
we could never return to the Sun again. If an ellipse, 
of course we may return, but it would be only after 
first enduring a degree of cold never experienced in 
the regions of eternal ice." 

The correctness of these remarks of Procopius no 
body thought of disputing. Their general truth was 
almost self-evident. Besides, his companions, and even 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. 1 83 

himself, soon found themselves again too deeply engaged 
in earthly investigations to trouble themselves much with 
heavenly. 

In fact; their late change of direction, as they were 
not long in ascertaining, had given their voyage an 
aspect altogether new and startling. At first, they had 
seen no land whatever ; now, they saw too much of it. 
Away, far away to the west it had appeared to extend 
itself indefinitely ; and now it looked as if it was never 
coming to an end in the east. x\nd it was land too 
of such a terrible, forbidding character that they were 
afraid to approach it. Even the closest observation 
could not detect an opening to get through, or a curving 
projection to take refuge behind, in case the wind blew 
them against this terrible coast. Straight as a wall, 
smooth as a block of ice, of a height varying from two 
to three hundred feet, at its dark base the long waves 
were ever dashing furiously, and continually whirling 
their foam and spray half-way up its dripping sides. 
Nowhere up or down in this terrible face could be 
detected a single fracture or cavity or projection of any 
kind to rest the foot, or be grssped by the hand of the 
daring climber. The summit bristled with a forest of 
crystallized needles, arrows, pikes, obelisks, and pyra- 
mids of all shapes and sizes, reflecting the sunlight in 
dazzling refulgence from their countless mirrors. 



1 84 TO THE SUN? 

'^Glassy/' was the epithet by which the Captain de- 
scribed this appalling coast. ^^ Spick and span new/' 
was Procopius's expression. -^Metallic," was the term 
employed by the Count. x\ll three were right. It pre- 
sented much of the polish, the glitter, and the hardness 
of glass. It looked as new and fresh as if it had been 
just turned out of the machine-shop. No winds, or 
rains, or discoloring suns had as yet dimmed the polished 
steel of its glistening blocks, shafts, and pillars. No 
electric discharge or furious atmospheric disturbances of 
any kind had as yet broken up the sharpness of its out- 
lines, marred the purity of its shapes, blurred the clear- 
ness and variety of its figures. Its metallic lustre flashed 
with golden iridisations strongly recalling the peculiar 
gleam of pyrites. 

'' An idea ! '' exclaimed the Count, suddenly. ^' Does 
not yonder crystal coast seem to be formed of some one 
particular kind of metal upheaved from the bowels of the 
earth, like the other Plutonic rocks ? And does not its 
lustre remind you of the metallic dust, the only debris so 
far found at the bottom of our new ocean ? ' ' 

^^ Another idea!'' exclaimed the Captain, '^ not con- 
tradicting yours. Count, but rather supporting it. The 
hardest rocks I have ever seen were streaked with little 
channels made by the water trickling over the surface. 
Here not the slightest rill, not even the faintest line can 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. 1 8$ 

be detected. Consequently, yonder rocky coast is either 
glass or metal.'* 

^^ Another idea, gentlemen," said Procopius, ^^ though 
it has probably struck you both already. I have never 
before seen coast or cliff or mountain, however steep or 
rugged or bare, where some little plant had not taken 
refuge, where some little seed had not found safety and 
shelter. But here a speck of verdure is as rare as a cot- 
tage-porch j not even a bird can be seen flying among 
those desolate peaks. Nothing lives there, or moves 
there, or grows there \ no animal or vegetable character- 
istic being found there, it must be exclusively mineral." 

Nothing could be truer than such remarks ; that about 
the birds was particularly striking. Latterly the yacht 
had become a special object of attraction for gulls, alba- 
trosses, rock-pigeons, curlews, fish-hawks, and other sea- 
birds. Man, or even the gun, had no terror for them. 
Night and day they kept flying about the vessel, or 
rested perching on the yards. Whenever a basket of 
broken meat was flung for them on deck, they pounced 
wildly on the food, fighting for it furiously, and swallow- 
ing it as ravenously as if they had not tasted a morsel 
for a week. Was this a sign that habitable land was 
still far away ? Did it show that the interior of the in- 
hospitable region in sight was as bare of food and water 
as its exterior ? 



1 86 TO THE SUN? 

Along this most strange and uninviting coast, but 
always at a safe distance, the Dobryna sailed for sev- 
eral days without noticing any important modification of 
its most prominent features. At times indeed it would 
show a crest straight, even, and as well defined as the 
ridge of a house, to change, however, in less than a mile 
to the normal outline of prismatic scales and needles in 
all their bewildering entanglement. But at the foot of 
these precipitous cliffs never could be seen a bank of 
sand, a bed of shingle, nor even a group of the rocks 
often found in shallow waters. Here and there narrow 
openings showed themselves; but they were cracks 
rather than entrances, no wider above than below, and 
impenetrable to any boat, for either water or explora- 
tion. Here and there too the line of the coast would 
retreat a little so as to allow the formation of shallow 
semicircular bays entirely open in the north, and there- 
fore capable of affording little or no refuge in case of a 
storm. 

One day, after a run of about two hundred and fifty 
miles, the Dobry7ia found that her eastern course was 
brought to a sudden termination. The line of the coast, 
giving a sharp turn to the left, directly barred her fur- 
ther passage. Procopius, who had carefully marked in 
his chart every feature of the new continent, said that the 
nev/ line lay between the 14th and 15 th meridians, that 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND, 1 8/ 

it ran directly north and south, and that, if it continued 
far enough, it would cut Malta, Sicily, and Naples. 

The question, AVhat was to be done now? was easily 
answered. No alternative was left but to do the only 
thing that could be done, namely, follow the new coast- 
line as far as it went. If it reached Malta, Sicily, and 
Naples, all further eastern exploration was clearly impos- 
sible. The Mediterranean would be then cut in two, 
and Egypt could never be reached from its western half. 

With the crystal coast still on their right, changed 
indeed in its direction but totally unchanged in char- 
acter, our explorers, leaving Africa and approaching 
Europe, found themselves in a few days nearing the lati- 
tude and longitude of Malta. Would it be visible? 
Would the old island possessed in succession by Pheni- 
cians, Carthaginians, Sicilians, Romans, Vandals, Greeks, 
Mahometans, Knights of St. John, British — would that 
famous old island be spared by the terrible cataclysm 
that had spared nothing else ? 

Malta had shared the common lot. On the fourteenth 
of February, Ball's dredge, plunged into the Mediter- 
ranean over the site of Valetta, brought up nothing but 
the same metallic dust whose appearance was by this 
time so well known, but of whose precise nature our 
travellers were still as ignorant as ever. 

*^More than Africa then has felt the ravages of this 



1 88 TO THE SUN? 

mysterious phenomenon/' observed the Count at the 
close of a general conversation. 

'^We can really set no limit to its disasters," said 
Procopius. ^^But what is to be done now, Father? 
Having ascertained that Malta no longer exists, what 
course shall we now pursue ? " 

^^ Follow this coast as long as it runs northwards! '' 
exclaimed the Captain. *^To Sicily, to Italy, to 
France ! Anywhere to get information ! Anywhere 
to learn — ' ' 

^^That we are probably the only survivors of the 
whole human race," observed the Count in grave tones, 
completing the Captain's unfinished sentence. 

A north course being evidently the best to pursue, 
Malta's site was soon left behind. If the coast ex- 
tended as far as Sicily, the only way left for the Count 
to reach Russia would be through the Straits of Messina. 
These would allow a passage to the Ionian Sea, the 
Archipelago, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, 
the Bosphorus, and so by the Black Sea to Sebastopol 
or Odessa. On the contrary, should the Straits be 
closed, Italy could be visited; the Apennines, and 
particularly the mighty Alps, could hardly have been 
swallowed up by the mysterious catastrophe. 

But no later than the next day it was found that a 
northern course was more easily decided on than fol- 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. 1 89 

lowed. The wind, which for some time had been 
blowing gently from the south-west, gradually veered 
round to west — a decidedly dangerous point, for if it 
freshened it threatened to dash the Dobryna to pieces 
against the crystal coast. The worst fears of her pas- 
sengers were soon realized. The wind not only fresh- 
ened but turned to a point still more dangerous, the 
north-west. Increasing gradually in violence, in less 
than an hour it was blowing a tremendous gale. The 
billows were soon running mountains high. The Do- 
bryna struggled on as well as she could through the 
seething waters, the waves breaking over her in cata- 
racts and washing her decks from stem to stern. A 
vessel of only two hundred tons burden, her sails use- 
less, her screw almost powerless, being as often out 
of the water as in it, her progress was of necessity very 
slow. Procopius even dreaded that she was gradually 
but surely approaching the fatal shore. 

This shore was only six miles to lee. Before such a 
storm such a distance meant hardly half an hour's respite 
from certain death. What was to be done ? Run for 
shelter into some friendly harbor? The savage coast 
presented none ! Of the two next and now only alter- 
natives, which one? Turn round and run before the 
wind — or steer right in its eye? This question, our 
three explorers, maintaining their post on deck as well 



190 TO THE SUN? 

as they could amidst the roaring storm and the drench- 
ing waters, were not long in answering. To turn round 
and try to run before the wind, besides exposing them 
to the instant danger of subjecting the vessel's broad- 
side to the combined action of furious wind and wave, 
would be certain to send the Dobryna back in a short 
time to the blind corner formed by the meeting of the 
two coasts. Once there, certain destruction would be 
simply inevitable. Facing the wind not only avoided 
this danger altogether, and offered the strongest pos- 
sible resistance to the more obvious and immediate 
peril, but would perhaps enable the Dobryna to hold 
her own — nay, if her splendid machinery only held 
out, she might even make some headway and so per- 
haps finally find some place of refuge. 

So said, so done. The Dobryna' s stem boldly faced 
the north-west, and her whirling, screaming, rattling 
screw did all it could to bite into the liquid masses. 
Her sailors, courageous and devoted, obeyed orders 
with coolness and intelligence. Not a single one hesi- 
tated an instant to execute the most dangerous man- 
oeuvre. The Captain said the word, the Master was 
present, God watched overhead ; now or never was 
the moment to laugh at death ! 

But in spite of panting steam and stubborn ma- 
chinery, in spite of intelligent and watchful seaman- 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. I9I 

ship, in spite of devotion and obedience almost sub- 
lime, the Dohryna, though making som^e headway, 
was also making leeway. The terrible coast was per- 
ceptibly coming nearer. It could now be hardly four 
miles distant. Not a muscle could be relaxed, not a 
minute lost. The steam, full head, threatened to burst 
the boiler. The Dobryna plunged through the gigantic 
waves like a train through a tunnel, or like a bather 
through a curling breaker. But from the summit of the 
next billow, her crew could plainly see that she still 
made leeway. 

Tightly holding on to whatever was staunch enough 
on deck, the sailors kept as close as possible to Proco- 
pius, calmly waiting orders. 

*' Nothing more can be done," said the Lieutenant, 
gloomily, but in tones of resignation. '^Our destruc- 
tion is now only a matter of time." 

''Is that so, Procopius?" asked the Count, quietly. 
'' Have you done everything that a seaman could do? " 

'^ Everything, as far as I know. Father," answered the 
Lieutenant; ''but it is all to no purpose; in another 
hour we shall be dashed to pieces on yonder shore." 

"In another hour," said the Count, in a voice loud 
enough to be heard by all around him, "we may be in 
perfect safety. Procopius, never despair of the good- 
ness of God! " 



192 TO THE SUN? 

^* Unless the wind changes, Father/* replied Proco 
pius, shaking his head despondently, ''or unless this 
coast opens to give us a passage, I don't see — '' 

''Procopius ! " interrupted the Count, sternly. ''We 
are now in the hands of our Creator, the all-wise, the all- 
good. Let us be resigned to His holy will ! " 

Taking off his hat, he crossed himself, and bowed foi 
a few moments in silent prayer. Servadac, Procopius, 
and the sailors, filled with the pious emotion of sublime 
resignation, quietly imitated his example. 

But though Procopius had given up everything foi 
lost, he was by no means the man to sit idle with 
folded hands, meekly awaiting his fate. All the crew, he 
thought, could not possibly escape the fury of the waves, 
but a few might. Why not make some provision for 
their maintenance ? The Dobryna would be sure to go 
under, but might not a raft survive? Every available 
moment, therefore, of this most valuable time was 
instantly devoted to the construction of a raft. Half a 
dozen stout spars, laid across half a dozen others, were 
securely lashed together by means of strong ropes, and 
rendered buoyant by a lot of empty casks carefully fast- 
ened beneath them. On this raft were secured several 
water-tight boxes of provisions, some barrels of fresh 
water, a compass, the vessel's yawl, oars, Procopius's 
charts in water-proof cases, and such other indispensable 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND. I93 

articles as could be hastily got together. In short, every 
means having been first taken that a good seaman should 
take to avoid shipwreck, everything was now done that 
a good seaman should do in case shipwreck was inevi- 
table. ' 

Every order now executed, there was a lull of active 
exertion. But no lull in the wind. It blew as fierce as 
ever from the north-west. No hope from the wind. 
From the shore? Still less. It was coming nearer and 
nearer, its precipitous cliffs were rising higher and 
higher; by an optical delusion they even seemed to lean 
out over the Dobryna, as if they were going to crush her 
long before she should be dashed to pieces against their 
base ! 

She still made some headway. Puffing, panting, 
screaming, struggling, as if madly fighting for her life, 
she bravely tore on through the hell of waters. But the 
leeway was as decided as ever. She was now but a few 
cables* lengths from those black and glassy steeps. The 
fearful dash of the pounding breakers could be heard in 
spite of the deafening din. All was lost. 

'^ Good -by, Count Timascheff ! * * said Servadac, ex- 
tending his hand to the Count, who stood beside him on 
the quarter-deck. 

'*Good-by, dear friend 1'* replied the Count, cor- 



194 TO THE SUN? 

dially pressing the proffered hand. **Good-by, till we 
meet in heaven ! '* 

An enormous wave lifted the Dobryna on its gigantic 
shoulders, as if to hurl her with more deadly effect 
against the rocks now close at hand. 

The Count and the Captain bowed their heads in 
silent submission to inevitable fate. 

Suddenly a ringing voice was heard, loud and clear, 
coming from the forecastle : 

^'Look alive there, all hands! Hoist the main jib! 
Up with the storm jib ! Helm amidship !.'' 

It was Procopius giving orders through the speaking- 
trumpet ! 

^^Ay, ay, sir ! '* cried the crew with one voice, elec- 
trified at the sudden but confident commands, and in- 
stantly hurrying to execute them. 

Procopius ran back and seized the wheel himself. 

^^Now then!'' he cried loud enough to be heard 
through the rush of the tempest, ^^see that the sheets 
are all clear ! " 

A sudden roar from the sailors drowned his voice. 
But it was no shriek of terror nor wail of despair ; on 
the contrary, it was the wild cheer of unexpected tri- 
umph. They had suddenly caught glimpse of an open- 
ing in the perpendicular wall, dark, straight, narrow, 
but wide enough for a refuge if not for a passage! 




AN OPENING IN THE CRYSTAL COAST. 



AN INHOSPITABLE LAND, I95 

Into this notch, amidst the dash of the foaming break- 
ers, the hissing of the blinding spray, the roar of the 
raging blast, and the cheers of the entranced sailors, 
the Dobryna, impelled by furious steam, wind, and wave, 
but still obedient to every motion of Procopius's able 
hand, now desperately plunged, and instantly disap- 
peared. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES 

WELL! I take your bishop, Major/' said General 
Murphy. He had been two days thinking over 
this move, but he made it at last. 

^^Take it. General, take it by all means, '* answered 
Major Oliphant. '^ Now, what 's the best reply? '* 

But the best reply, whatever it might be, was not 
made that morning. In fact, the whole day, February 
the seventeenth, passed, and left it still unmade. And^ 
in all probability, the next day would be quite as un- 
fruitful in its results. 

This was all strictly in order. One move every three 
days was the average rate of these solid chess-players. 
They had been four months getting through twenty 
moves. Moreover, in all that time not a single pawn 
had been captured on either side, these devoted dis- 
ciples of Philidor believing with their illustrious master 
that the management of the pawn, *^the soul of chess,'' 
alone constituted the superior player. In this, however, 
they only followed up strictly the invariable rules that 

196 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. I97 

every British officer invariably practised, or thought he 
practised, on every conceivable occasion: ^^Look be- 
fore you leap/' and '' Put no trust in chance." 

In many respects General Murphy and Major Oli- 
phant might be considered model officers in her Maj- 
esty's service. Both of middle age, both tall, both 
florid, with a. tendency to stoutness, both mutton-chop- 
whiskered in the true British pattern, both always \\\ 
uniform, both more supercilious in air than in nature, 
they hummed and hawed when they spoke, and con- 
sidered it their bounden duty to petrify every stranger 
with the stony English stare. English they were every- 
where, and English alone they wanted to be. Not to 
be English, in their eyes, was a blunder as well as a 
crime. In Murphy's estimation indeed it was the seven 
deadly sins rolled into one. Though born in Ireland 
and a scion of that Norman-Irish blood that has pro- 
duced many of the most eminent men of modern times, 
he was far more English than the English themselves. 
He often alluded to ^^our illustrious ancestors, sir," 
Cedric and Offa, Aelfred and Eadwine, ^^Old-Eng- 
lish" not *^ Anglo-Saxons," and never designated the 
battle of Hastings by any other name than the ^^dis- 
astrous affair at Senlac." But, notwithstanding these 
little peculiarities, rather amusing than otherwise, both 
these gentlemen, with all their affected iciness and 



1 98 TO THE SUN? 

want of emotion, were most excellent officers and 
thoroughly reliable soldiers. Judged by the standard 
of correct taste, ** England" might be considered as 
of a little too frequent occurrence in their vocabulary ; 
but the noble word ^^duty" often occurred there too, 
and with such excellent effect as almost to completely 
redeem the transgression. 

The awful catastrophe that had so profoundly affected 
a portion of our earth they had met with a stolid courage, 
an imperturbable calmness quite characteristic. One 
memorable morning they had found themselves sud- 
denly isolated in mid-ocean, with nothing left of their 
splendid fortress but a rocky islet, and nothing left of 
their splendid garrison but ten privates and a corporal. 

'^General," said Major Oliphant, touching his hat 
with the customary morning salute, ^'this — aw — well, 
this is — aw — peculiar. ' ' 

''Very!" replied General Murphy, promptly return- 
ing the salute — though naturally slow and cautious he 
prided himself on his readiness of speech and prompt- 
ness of action — '' Yes ! I should say very peculiar ! " 

'' But — aw — England, you know, is all right ! " 

'' O yes ! England is all right ! " 

'' And — aw — one of her ships will be here soon ! " 

''Yes! an English vessel may arrive at any mo- 
ment!" 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. I99 

'^ Till then we — aw — remain at our post ? " 

'^ Yes ! Strictly at our post ! ' ' 

^'England expects us, you know, in such cases — ** 

'^ To stick to our posts at all hazards ! '* 

The gallant gentlemen pronounced these words with 
the grand air of undaunted resolution, though they 
knew very well that ^^ sticking to the post " was the onlv 
possible course left for them. For, in the first place, 
they had no place to escape to ; in the second, even if 
they had, there was no means of getting there, the only 
thing left in the shape of a vessel being a small boat that 
by the merest accident had been drawn up ashore for 
repairs. Whether they would have acted with the same 
heroism in all circumstances is more than we can say ; 
but one thing is quite certain. Every one of these brave 
Britishers, soldiers as well as officers, displayed the most 
ungrumbling patience and stubborn confidence in wait- 
ing for a sight of the English vessel that was to come 
and take them back to their native country. 

The soldiers indeed did not appear to think that there 
was anything worth grumbling about. They had provis- 
ions enough left to last thirteen healthy stomachs — 
English stomachs too — for ten years at least. Mess 
beef, salt pork, wheaten flour, canned vegetables, dried 
meats, biscuits, etc., by the shipload, were still in the 
cellars entirely uninjured and in no danger of injury 



200 TO THE SUNf 

As tD Bass's Pale Ale, London Dock Port, Hennessy's 
Brandy, Holland Gin, and other liquors indispensable 
to British palates, the stores previously laid in as a five 
years' supply for the whole garrison had also completely 
escaped destruction, not a single bottle or barrel being 
lost. 

The new order of things in the physical world, the 
transformation of west to east, the diminution of gravity, 
the shortening of the days and nights, the deviation of 
the rotation axis, the change of orbit, etc. — these start- 
ling phenomena had, of course, been all carefully noticed 
by both officers and men, but they had not appeared to 
give them much concern. The General and the Major, 
on recovering from the shock and ascertaining its im- 
mediate extent, had coolly replaced the scattered pieces 
on the board and quietly resumed their interminable 
game. One circumstance, indeed, had seemed at first 
as rather likely to disturb their equanimity — the strange 
lightness of the chessmen. They could hardly be made 
to stand, as if of cork instead of boxwood, the kings and 
queens being especially unsteady after such a revolution. 
But with some patience, precaution, and practice, in a 
few days the players had succeeded in reconstructing 
their little nations and once more securing them a pretty 
solid basis. 

The private soldiers were not chess-players, and there- 




•'GENERAL AND MAJOR," BEGAN PIM. 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 20T 

fore felt no inconvenience from the lightness of the 
pieces, nor, I might add, from any other instance of 
that particular physical modification. Indeed, but for 
my strong love of truth, I might say no particular physi- 
cal modification whatever appeared to give them the 
slightest concern. But in saying this I should be wrong. 
One item in the new order of things puzzled them con- 
siderably for awhile, and how they settled the question 
finally may be perhaps worth relating. 

The third morning after the catastrophe, just as Gen- 
eral Murphy seized a piece, preparatory to making his 
well-considered move, he stopped to listen to the light 
tramp of men marching outside, and soon heard a gentle 
tap on the door of the apartment. 

''Come in!*' said the General, putting back his 
piece. 

The door opened and in marched the nine privates 
headed by Corporal Pim, their spokesman. 

After a few steps, the Corporal ordered a halt, and, 
with hand to cap, awaited orders. 

''Well, Pim," said the General, " what is it now?'' 

"General and Major, gentlemen," began Pim in a 
grand oratorical style but with a rather tremulous voice, 
"the men's minds is hexercised sum.mat by this 'ere 
hextraordinary catastrophe, and, before mounting guard 
to-day, they thought they would come to 'eadqrarters 
to get hencouraged a bit." 



202 TO THE SUN? 

^^ Proceed, Pirn," said the General encouragingly. 

^^ General and Major, gentlemen,'^ resumed the Cor- 
poral in more confident tones, ^'the men 'ave deputed 
me to make two hobservations, one hobservation to 
General Murphy regarding the pay, and another hob- 
servation to our Major Holiphant regarding the grub.'' 

^'Permission to make the first observation is granted," 
said the General in a dignified but courteous tone. 

''Has to our pay. General," resumed the Corporal, 
now quite at his ease, "the days being now only 'alf 
as long as they used to be before this 'ere haccident, 
the men wishes to know if the pay is to be cut down 
in a simular proportion." 

"A sensible question indeed, Pim," answered the 
General slowly and thoughtfully, "hum — haw — yes, 
though it takes me rather by surprise, I must acknowl- 
edge it to be a very sensible question indeed. How- 
ever, it admits of only one answer — hum — haw — " 
witti a glance at the Major — "yes, of but one answer. 
A soldier's pay being calculated by the day, and the 
day being the period of time lasting from midnight 
to midnight, irrespective of the number of hours ac- 
tually elapsing in the interim, the pay will remain as 
it was. England is still rich enough to pay her sol- 
diers what she has stipulated to pay them." 

" Hurrah ! " said the ten soldiers with one voice but 
in a subdued tone, and touching hand to cap. 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 203 

'^Left oblique!** said the Corporal to his men; 
they obeyed the order and now stood all facing the 
Major. 

*^ Proceed with your second observation, Pirn," said 
Oliphant, imitating the dignity and urbanity of his 
superior officer. 

*'The second hobservation, Major Holiphant, has 
already remarked," resumed the Corporal as fluently as 
if repeating his little speech by rote, '^refers to our 
grub. The days being now only six hours long, the 
men is hanxious to know if we are to heat only twice 
instead of four times a day ? ' ' 

**A sensible question indeed, Pim," replied the 
Major, still paying his superior officer the most deli- 
cate of all compliments — imitation, — "' hum — haw — 
yes, though it takes me a little by surprise, I must ac- 
knowledge it to be an exceedingly sensible question. 
However, — hum — haw — " exchanging a few nods with 
the General, '^yes, it admits of but one answer. Mili- 
tary regulations being established in conformity with 
the ordinary — haw — phenomena of nature, extraordi- 
nary phenomena can never be taken into account. You 
and your men therefore, Corporal, w^ill continue to take 
your four meals a day as usual. But, as military regu- 
lations as well as hygienic principles require these 
meals to be taken by daylight and at proper inter- 



204 TO THE SUNt 

vals, you and your men must be ready for them after 
the lapse of every hour and a half. England is rich 
enough to feed her soldiers four times a day, and her 
soldiers must be ready to take their meals four times 
a day, whether the days are long or short ! ' ' 

^^ Hurrah ! " cried the ten voices as before, only this 
time in a tone somewhat more elevated, as expressive 
of a higher shade of satisfaction. 

^'Habout face! march!" said the Corporal, and in 
an instant the officers were once more free to resume 
their interrupted game. 

This is the only instance we can find of any expres- 
sion of curiosity on the part of these well-drilled Eng- 
lishmen, as to the immediate results of the late tremen- 
dous and most astounding cataclysm. 

The two officers, however, when not engaged at chess, 
that is at dinner-time or when taking a smoke every 
morning on the esplanade after breakfast, would occa- 
sionally ask each other why that English vessel was so 
very slow in coming in sight ? England, they were per- 
fectly willing to acknowledge, had plenty of other 
troubles to occupy her at this time. Not to mention 
her other great projects, she had lately dispatched quite 
a number of her vessels to Australia where, not to be 
outdone by France's great Saharian enterprise, she had 
determined to establish a vast inland sea of similar char- 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 20 5 

acter in a colony exclusively her own. This might 
excuse her tardiness for a few weeks. Her Indian 
troubles, her complications with Turkey, her misunder- 
standings with Russia would perhaps readily explain the 
delay of a few weeks longer. But when seven weeks, of 
seven days each, each day being of the good old-fash- 
ioned English kind, twenty-four hours long, had elapsed 
without a single vessel, English or foreign, ever showing 
itself within sight of the island fortress, the two officers 
caught each other occasionally glancing at the sea with 
a shade of something very like uneasiness stealing over 
their faces. 

*^Hum — haw — yes," the General would then ob 
serve, '^ this is peculiar. ' ' 

^' Hum — haw — yes," the Major would invariabl} 
reply, ^^it is very peculiar." 

Beyond safe and uncompromising expressions of this 
kind they never went. If any ugly doubts of England's 
omniscience and omnipotence began to crawl slowly into 
their minds, they quietly kept such doubts to themselves. 
No look, gesture, word or action of theirs ever con- 
tributed to give the men the slightest discouragement. 
Everything went on as usual. Every military regula- 
tion was strictly insisted on and invariably complied 
with. Orders were issued every morning, dress parade 
was held every evening, and guard was mounted day 



206 TO THE SUN? 

and night by these thirteen men with the strict regularity 
and attention to detail that had been necessary when a 
garrison of nearly three thousand soldiers was present. 
In short, the phenomenon might convulse the face of 
the world as much as it pleased by its mysterious nature 
and the stupendous scale of its operations, but it ex- 
pended its forces in vain on the bull-dog tenacity of 
British discipline. 

Not by any means that these indomitable soldiers had 
very hard times of it. Every day they got stouter and 
fatter. Their duties, more nominal than real, were a 
diversion rather than a toil. Out of Pim*s nine men 
eight unanimously declared that such a life was ^'hawful 
jolly," and even the ninth, a constitutional grumbler 
who set up for a wit, restricted himself to saying that if 
this 'ere kind of thing lasted six months longer it would 
become ^ decidedly slow." As to their 3000 compan- 
ions who had so suddenly disappeared, they regretted 
them of course, but they did not often speak of them. 
Indeed they even seemed to take considerable comfort 
from a stupid joke made by the grumbler the very morn- 
ing after the catastrophe. Some one was saying it was a 
pity so many men were lost. 

^^ Lost I" cried the grumbler. ^^Who says they're 
lost ? Are n't they all to be found in the Report ? " 

With this consolation they appeared to be well satis- 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 20y 

fied and in a few days more completely reconciled to 
the new state of things. The only emotion to which 
they ever gave expression was curiosity, and — once satis- 
fied on the pay and food questions — even their curiosity 
they made apparent, not by questioning and talking, but 
by always and ever looking out over the dreary sea. As 
soon as his duty, whether of eating, sleeping or mount- 
ing guard, was over, each soldier invariably climbed the 
steep face of the Rock to some favorite crevice, and 
there he spent much of the day and even of the night in 
watching with stolid gaze the dismal expanse of ocean. 
At first, they had determined to look at nothing but an 
English ship; then they found themselves anxious to 
catch sight of any kind of a ship ; at last, they felt that 
even the sight of a porpoise's black back would be 
a grand relief to the terrible monotony. But, though 
their Rock had been one of the best known and most 
frequented fortresses on earth, nothing whatever came 
into sight in the east, or the west, or the north. 

But on the south something was to be seen on which 
they often rested their weary eyes and which they fani 
would visit if allowed by the military regulations. It 
was a black speck, barely visible over the waters and 
twelve or thirteen miles distant. They knew very well 
that it was the upper portion of a mountain fortress 
that had somewhat resembled their own. The same 



208 TO THE SUNf 

cataclysm had attacked both, and reduced them to mere 
rocky islets hardly any longer habitable. 

But, even if habitable, was it any longer inhabited? 
Was it a mere deserted and abandoned rock, or was it 
the refuge of some survivors of the terrible catastrophe? 
This is the question the soldiers often asked themselves, 
but always in vain. It was exceedingly tantalizing, but 
they carefully suppressed all curious inquiries. 

One morning, however, things took such a turn as 
made it seem that their curiosity on the subject would 
be gratified soon and satisfactorily. Instead of re- 
tiring, as usual, after the morning cigar, to their sitting- 
room to resume the famous game of chess, General 
Murphy and Major Oliphant, in full uniform, were 
seen directing their footsteps to the creek where the 
little boat was moored. They were followed by the 
General's man Kirke (the Major's had disappeared 
with the others), staggering under a pair of oars, some 
cushions, two guns, a telescope, and a basket of pro- 
visions. Depositing his burden in the boat and ar- 
ranging it as well as he could, Kirke jumped ashore 
and held the chain whilst the two officers, stepping 
in, took their seats and began handling the oars. 
Then, throwing in the chain, he gave the boat a vig- 
orous push that sent her several yards from the shore. 
In a few minutes, to the unbounded surprise of the 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 2O9 

little garrison thus so unceremoniously left in charge 
of Corporal Pim, the two officers, still in complete 
uniform, and now free from the land, turned the 
head of the boat towards the black speck on the 
southern horizon, and began to ply the oars with such 
vigor and effect that in an hour they had almost com- 
pletely disappeared. 

Thirty-six hours afterwards they returned, as quietly 
and as mysteriously as they had departed. Their faces 
looked a little flushed from the long row, but their 
scarlet uniforms were still without speck or stain. Leav- 
ing the boat and its contents in Kirke's charge, they 
quietly returned the respectful salutations of the men 
and, without exchanging a syllable even with Corporal 
Pim one way or another regarding the object of their 
voyage, proceeded quietly to their quarters. 

What had brought them to the rock ? A sentiment 
of humanity? A prompting of interest? The spur 
of curiosity? Nobody could tell. What had they 
seen? — a question as unanswerable as the former. 
On such a subject they were as silent as the grave. 
Even Pim knew nothing and could tell the men noth- 
ing except that the ^^Guv'nors" seemed pretty well 
pleased with the result of their trip, and had prepared 
a Report on the subject, signed and sealed with all 
the formalities and addressed to : 



2IO TO THE SUN? 

Admiral Fairfax, 
First Lord of the Admiralty, 
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 

This they had given him in charge with strict orders 
to deliver it to the first English ship that came in 
sight. 

But no ship, English or otherwise, had come in sight 
by the seventeenth of February, the day on the morn- 
ing of which, as mentioned in the beginning of this 
chapter, General Murphy took the Major's bishop, and 
the rest of which had passed without any correspond- 
ing reply on the part of the Major. 

Next morning at breakfast, after the usual salutations, 
the General asked the Major if he remembered what 
day it was ? 

^^ Don't I?" was the immediate answer. ^'It is the 
grandest day on the calendar ! '* 

*'Yes!" chimed in the General; ^'it's a day to 
make every Englishman's heart throb more proudly 
in his bosom." 

*^A day to be celebrated with — haw — salvoes — 
yes, salvoes of artillery from one end of the world to 
the other! " cried the Major with as much enthusiasm 
as he could show. 

*^I don't see," observed the General, ^^ why the — 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 211 

hum — haw — peculiar condition of our affairs on the 
Rock should prevent us from celebrating the — hum — • 
haw — never-to-be-forgotten birthday of our glorious 
sovereign with all the usual honors." 

'^ On the contrary ! " replied the Major. 

^^Her Majesty's government has not placed itself — 
hum — haw — in communication with us," said the 
General, ^^but is her Majesty — hum — haw — to be held 
accountable for that ? ' ' 

*^ Certainly not ! " replied the Major, ^^ — hum — haw 
— most assuredly not ! ' ' 

^' Bring tumblers, Kirke, and open a bottle of the 
oldest Port ! — Fill to the brim. Major Oliphant 1 " 

'^Most happy. General." 

The gentlemen stood up ceremoniously, glass in hand. 

^^The health and happiness of her illustrious Majesty, 
Queen Victoria the First, with all the honors ! ' ' said the 
General, solemnly and impressively. 

*^Hip, hip, hurrah! " answered the Major, emptying 
his tumbler. 

'' Fill again. Major ! — With all the honors ! " 

^^Hip, hip, hurrah! " 

*' Once more, Major ! — With all the honors ! " 

^^Hip, hip, hurrah! " 

The loyal ceremony thus religiously completed with 
*' all the honors " (three tumblers of old Port each swa)- 



212 TO THE SUN? 

lowed at a gulp)^ the gentlemen took their seats and 
filled their glasses once more. The General then rang 
the bell and summoned Corporal Pim. 

The Corporal appeared in a short time, hastily wiping 
his lips with the back of his hand while trying to make 
the salute. 

'^ Corporal Pim,'* said General Murphy, grandly and 
even majestically, ^^you and your men are no doubt 
well aware that to-day is February the eighteenth, reck- 
oning according to the good old English calendar, and 
therefore the birthday of Her Most Glorious Majesty.'* 

The Corporal took off his hat, gave a hiccup, but did 
his best to look grave and loyal, and bowed his head for 
the five seconds required by military regulations. 

^^ Corporal Pim!" resumed the General still more 
grandly and impressively, ^^we shall fire, as usual, the 
twenty-one guns prescribed for the regular celebration 
of this — hum — haw — most glorious and ever- to-be 
remembered anniversary. ' ' 

^^They shall be — (hiccup) — shall be fired, General! " 

^' Corporal Pim ! let such precautions be taken that as 
few arms or legs as possible may be shot off. At the 
present time, Corporal Pim, we want all the able-bodied 
men we have, and a proper regard for the benefit of the 
service suggests that the number of mutilations — hum — 
haw — be reduced to the lowest minimum attainable." 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 21 3 

^^They shall be cautioned, General, (hiccup) — shall 
be carefully cautioned," answered the Corporal, very will- 
ing to promise but too mindful of former experiences to 
piomise much. 

^' Corporal Pim ! — hum — haw — that is all ! " 

''All right, Gen — (hiccup) eral ! " 

Of all the innumerable pieces of ordnance that had 
till lately supplied this great Rock-fortress, there now 
remained but one, an old-fashioned muzzle-loader, with 
a caliber nearly a foot in diameter. From such an enor- 
mous cannon as this salutes were seldom or never fired, 
but it was now either this or no salute at all. 

Pim, having cautioned his men as to the necessity for 

extra care in special regard to the General's request, 

ordered the twenty-one cartridges to be brought to the 

embrasure where the cannon stood with its muzzle pro- 
ber 
jecting through a port-hole. 

General Murphy and Major Oliphant, in full uniform 
with cocked hat and feathers, superintended operations 
with very particular interest, for their faces were much 
redder and their eyes more sparkling than usual. 

The cannon was loaded in strict accordance with the 
rules of The Artillery-man^ s Manual^ which Pim stopped 
every minute with great gravity to read, and the joyful 
salvoes commenced. After every shot the Corporal also 
tried to insist that the fuse should be completely extin- 



214 TO THE SUN? 

guished, so as to render a premature discharge impos- 
sible and thus save the gunners their normal number of 
legs, arms and fingers. His exertions were not very suc- 
cessful. The gunners, instead of extinguishing the fuse, 
lit it at each end, and several times discharged the piece 
before orders were given. Strange to say, however, in 
spite of a relaxation of discipline due to an over-allow- 
ance of brandy in honor of the day, no untoward acci- 
dent whatever occurred worse than one gunner losing 
his thumb and another the small joint of his little finger. 
With these exceptions everything passed off well. 

Neither the men nor the officers were, however, at all 
satisfied with the proceedings. The big cannon, though 
charged with its ordinary tremendous cartridge vigor- 
ously rammed home, did not make half noise enough. 
The air, not much more than half as dense as it had 
been seven weeks ago, was not able to rush together 
with the grand detonating effects of old. No more of 
those ear-splitting reverberations, rolled back from the 
rocky projections, which had transformed the short sim- 
ple cannon report into rattling peals of living thunder. 
No more of these majestic rumblings, repercussions, and 
undulations propagated by the elasticity of the air, and 
extending themselves miles and miles in all directions. 
The cannoniers listened for them in vain, and, not hear- 
ing them, began to be ashamed of themselves. On 



rHE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES, 215 

former occasions of this glorious nature, whenever they 
had not succeeded in rendering deaf for the rest of their 
days at least a half dozen of incautious civilians who had 
come too near the cannon, they considered the celebra- 
tion a failure. But now they were all obliged to make 
the humiliating confession that the noise was not loud 
enough to deafen a twelve-month old baby. 

^'A miserable pop-gun!" muttered General Murphy 
every now and then, unable to control his fast increasing 
disgust. 

^'A wretched penny pistol!" was Major Oliphant's 
invariable reply. 

^^On any other occasion I should not care a pin!" 
cried the General at last, out of all patience. 

^'It certainly compromises the dignity of our Royal 
anniversary," observed the Major. 

Twenty shots had been fired, but, just as the sponger 
was cleaning out the piece, preparatory for the twenty- 
first, a luminous idea suddenly struck the General. 

^'Put a shell in this time," said he to the rammer; 
'^ I wish to ascertain the range of this piece." 

^^The General desires to make an experiment," cried 
the Major to Corporal Pim. ^'You understand, don't 
you?" 

^^ All right. Major," said the Corporal; '^shperiment 
shall be made ! " 



2l6 TO THE SUN? 

He gave the necessary orders, and in a few minutes 
one of the men returned, dragging a truck which con- 
tained one of the shells that, though weighing at least 
two hundred pounds, the old cannon had often sent a 
distance of two or three miles. By following this shell 
with the telescope, as the General rather loudly and 
emphatically explained, they could easily measure the 
line it took to fall into the sea, and from that readily 
calculate what would be the cannon's range in the new 
order of things. Himself and the Major stood near 
the gun, one at each side, glass in hand, ready to ob- 
serve. 

The piece was loaded, pointed at an angle of forty- 
two degrees, the most favorable angle for distance, and 
fired. 

The two officers jumped at least a foot in astonish- 
ment. 

^^ By Saint George ! " cried the startled General. 

*^ By the great Saint George ! ^' echoed the Major, sur- 
prised to the last degree. 

The two officers looked at each other in momentary 
dismay, eyes staring, mouths wide open, arms stiffly ex- 
tended, and fingers nervously clinching the useless tele- 
scopes. 

Owing to the diminution of gravity, a phenomenon 
over which they had not expended much thought, the 




FIRING THE GREAT GUN. 



THE ROCK FORTRESS AND ITS INMATES. 21/ 

projectile had vanished like a flash. It could not have 
fallen in the sea; therefore it must have disappeared 
beyond the horizon or perhaps left the earth altogether ! 

'^ That horizon is at least twelve miles off ! '* cried the 
General, gradually recovering his breath. 

^^ Twelve miles at the very least ! '* gasped the Major. 

''Hark!'' cried the General suddenly. ''What's 
that ? Can it be an echo ? " 

All listened intently. 

Yes ! Three separate reports were heard coming suc- 
cessively from the very quarter in which the shell had 
disappeared ! The sounds, though extremely faint, were 
too distinct to be a mere echo. 

"A ship ! " cried the General. 

"A ship, undoubtedly ! " cried the Major. 

"An English ship ! " cried the General. 

" Of course an English ship ! " echoed the Major. 

All eyes were now fixed on one point of the horizon 
with breathless interest. 

After the lapse of some minutes, two little specks 
showed themselves, and were immediately pronounced 
to be mast-heads. 

"I told you so," said the General; "England is 
hastening to relieve us ! " 

"England must have heard the sound of our can- 
non I " cried the Major rather hastily. 



2l8 TO THE SUN? 

^^ Which I 'ope our shell hasn't struck that 'ere 
wessel ! " murmured Pim to himself with some mis- 
giving. 

In less than half an hour her whole keel was visible ; 
a long line of black smoke showed her to be a steamer; 
she was evidently making for the island, though the 
little flag fluttering from her gaff was still too far ofl" 
to be distinctly seen. 

^^Run up the colors to salute our vessel ! " cried the 
General in great excitement. 

^^Up with the colors to salute the English ship!' 
repeated the Major to Corporal Pim, who had the or- 
der instantly executed amidst loud cheers and great 
hat-wavings. 

But suddenly the two officers simultaneously dropped 
their glasses, and would have fallen in a fit if Pim had 
not held them. They had at last caught distinct sight 
of the little flag fluttering from the gafl" — an oblique 
blue cross on a white ground. 

*^The Russian flag ! " they both exclaimed in accents 
of blank dismay, while they mechanically clutched on 
to Pim for support. 

They looked at each other for at least five minutes 
in perfect silence. Mingled disappointment and sur- 
prise had struck the gallant Englishmen speechless. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 

THE yacht, soon near enough to allow her name to 
be easily read — Dobryna, made for a little road- 
stead in the south part of the islet. This was formed 
by a curving line of rocks extending far enough out 
to sea to afford some protection against the north- 
west wind, which was still blowing, but with con- 
siderably reduced violence. The anchor thrown out 
and the boat lowered, in a few minutes the Count 
and the Captain stepped ashore and found them- 
selves in the majestic presence of General Murphy 
and Major Oliphant in full uniform and stiff as turkey- 
cocks. 

*^ Heaven be thanked! gentlemen,*' cried Servadac, 
hurrying up with his French impetuosity and eagerly 
stretching out his hands, ^^that we are at last arrived 
at a Christian country. You too have escaped the 
terrible disaster, and we are most happy to congratu- 
late you.'* 

He still held out his hands in the highest good- 

219 



220 TO THE SUN? 

humor, but no expected cordial squeeze was returned 
by the English officers. They stood there before him 
as cold and reserved as a pair of cast-iron statues. 

He was not, however, easily disconcerted, and, being 
already aware that English stiffness oftener proceeds 
from conscious awkwardness than from silly affecta- 
tion, he endeavored to set these shy officers at their 
ease by assuming a heartiness of manner that he was 
very far from feeling. 

He resumed the initiative, therefore, still speaking 
French, not only for his own convenience, but also 
because to be addressed in French an English gen- 
tleman always considers a delicate compliment. 

^'By this time, no doubt, you have heard from 
France, Russia, England, Europe in general? Are 
you in communication with your own people? Have 
you been — ? ' ' 

^^ May I ask whom I have the honor of addressing? '' 
interrupted General Murphy in perfect French, but 
drawing himself up with a proud air that added at 
least another inch to his height. The Major, also, 
grandly twirling his moustache, surveyed the strangers 
with an interrogative air. 

^^ Ah ! " cried Servadac with a shrug of the shoulders 
which he did not attempt to conceal; '^excuse my 
forgetfulness ! We have not yet had an introduction." 




THE INTRODUCTION. 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 221 

Then taking off his cap and presenting his com- 
panion, he bowed and said : 

^^ Count Wassili Timascheff ! '* 

'^Sir John Temple Oliphant, Major of Her Majesty's 
Hundred and Ninety-ninth of the Line ! " said Murphy, 
presenting his companion with equal ceremony. 

The two gentlemen saluted each other with a stiff 
bow. 

^^ Staff Captain Servadac!'* said the Count in his 
turn. 

'^Sir Hugh Fitzgerald Murphy, Brigadier-General, 
in command of the Garrison,'' replied Major Oliphant 
in a stately tone. 

The Captain and the General bowed still more stiffly. 

The laws of etiquette being now strictly complied 
with, conversation was rendered possible. 

"This way, gentlemen," said Murphy, with a cour- 
teous motion of his hand to his guests, showing them 
the way to the sitting-room. This was a kind of 
casemate hewn in the rock, with the light admitted 
through port-holes. But it was sumptuously and even 
elegantly furnished : bright tapestry concealed the dark 
and dingy walls ; sporting pictures, and statues — among 
others a beautiful bust of Her Most Gracious Majesty — 
gave it a gay and sprightly look ; soft carpets and plenty 
of chairs made it cosy and comfortable ; a decanter and 



222 TO THE SUNf 

some empty glasses stood on a sideboard, and the whole 
room was pervaded with the odor of rich old port. 

All took seats, but an awkward silence prevailed foi 
several seconds. The Englishmen assumed a listening 
air, but did not say a word. The Captain, chafing 
under all this ceremony, seemed decidedly indisposed 
to resume the conversation. The Count, finding the 
initiative thus to devolve on himself, judged it best 
to suppose everything said before the introduction to 
be forgotten, and therefore began at the beginning. 

^^ Gentlemen," said he, ^^you are no doubt aware 
that a cataclysm, the cause and the full extent of which 
are still alike unknown to us, took place on the night of 
the 31st of December and the ist of January. Judging 
by what remains of the territory that you previously 
occupied, you must yourselves have had severe experi- 
ence of its effects." 

The English officers signified their acquiescence with 
this proposition by a nod of their heads so mechanical 
and simultaneous that a pair of automatons could not 
have done it better. 

^^ My companion and friend. Captain Servadac," 
continued the Count, '' has suffered considerably from 
the visitation. He was engaged at the time in per- 
forming his duties as staff-officer on the coast of 
Algeria — " 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY, 223 

''You mean Algiers, Count, don't you?'* interrupted 
Murphy, with his eyes on the ceiling. '^ Of course you 
do. Well, on the coast of Algiers — '* 

''Excuse me. General," said the Count, with a slight 
twinkle in his eye. "I don't mean Algiers just now; I 
mean Algeria." 

"Algeria? Algeria?" said Murphy, closing his eyes 
and twirling his thumbs as if in close self-communion. 
" Oliphant, what is Algeria? " 

The General, like most Englishmen, was rather weak 
in geography, and in a case of this kind unhesitatingly 
relied on the Major's superior information. 

"Algeria is a Turkish country on the north coast of 
Africa," answered the Major in reply to his chief. " It 
was formerly notorious as a den of pirates, but for the 
last twenty or thirty years — hum — haw — it has been 
the penal colony of some European power, Spanish or 
French — I forget which — but it's really of no conse- 
quence — Spanish most probably. ' ' 

" Excuse me for undertaking to correct you a little. 
Major Oliphant," quickly and somewhat excitedly ob- 
served Servadac. " Algeria is not Spanish. Never was 
Spanish. It is French of the French ! ' ' 

Not a gesture from the automatons by way of reply, 
except the resumption of their listening air. 

"My companion and friend," continued the Count 



224 TO THE SUN? 

in a tone as cold as ice, ^'was stationed near the mouth 
of the Sheliff on the terrible night in question. In the 
morning he discovered that one part of the African con- 
tinent had been suddenly turned into an island, but that 
the rest seemed to have completely disappeared from the 
face of the earth.*' 

^^Ah! '* said Murphy, slightly lifting his eyebrows. 

^^Oh!" said Oliphant, tapping his finger-nails to- 
gether. 

And then a general pause ensued. 

^^ Indeed!'* observed Murphy, just to say some- 
thing. 

^'Is it possible!" added Oliphant, helping out his 
superior. 

The guests rigidly preserving a freezing silence, 
Murphy was compelled to give his tongue a little more 
play. 

^^ Count Timascheff," said he, ^^may I ask — aw — 
aw — how you yourself spent the night in question? '* 

^^ At sea, General Murphy, in my yacht," replied the 
Count, " and I must really consider the escape of my- 
self and my crew as simply miraculous." 

" Quite miraculous," repeated Oliphant, to show how 
interested he was in his guest's narrative. 

^^ Chance threw us on the Algerian coast,'* con- 
tinued the Count, ^^ where I was fortunate enough to 




GENERAL MURPHY OBSERVES. 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY, 22$ 

find in the new island my friend Captain Servadac and 
his Orderly Ben Zouf." 

^ ^ Ben ? * * asked Murphy, to show that he was 

listening. 

^^ Zouf! " cried Servadac impatiently, pronouncing 
the word as if it had been ^^ ouf ! " the expression used 
by angry Frenchmen when they want to let off steam. 

^*The Captain being as impatient as myself/' con- 
tinued the Count, ^^to find out how things really stood, 
we embarked together on the Dobryna^ and, sailing east- 
wardly, endeavored to find out what remained of the 
Algerian colony. Not the slightest trace of it could be 
found!" 

The two Englishmen looked at each other with an 
expression that seemed to say ^^What else could you 
expect from a colony founded by these fickle French- 
men ? " So, at least, the Captain interpreted the 
glance, and he was jumping up to give an angry reply 
when a sudden accession of his native politeness fortu- 
nately restrained him. 

^^ Gentlemen," calmly continued the Count, ^^the 
disaster, I am sorry to say, has been immense. Along 
the whole of the eastern portion of the Mediterranean 
we have not been able to find a single trace of the old 
countries — neither i\lgeria — nor Tunis — except one 
little point, a rock emerging from the sea, near the 



226 TO THE SUN? 

ruins of Carthage, and containing the tomb of Saint 
Louis." 

^^ Saint Louis? Saint Louis?" asked Murphy, who 
was no stronger in hagiology than in geography. ^ ^ Oli- 
phant, who was Saint Louis ? " 

^^ Saint Louis — hum — haw — " answered the Major, 
a little more diffidently this time; ''Saint Louis is a 
seaport town in the United States famous for cotton and 
corn and Indians. But — haw — the Saint Louis spoken 
of by the Count — hum — was some martyr of that 
name in the old times — hum — haw — yes, in the old 
times." 

''You're right, Major Oliphant," observed Servadac. 
more impatiently than even before; "Saint Louis was 
a martyr ; but he was more, he was a king of France ; 
he was still more, he was the best and greatest king that 
ever sat on a throne in any age and in any country ! ' ' 

The automatons showed their appreciation of this 
volunteered information by a stiff formal bow, and the 
Count, rather disliking to be interrupted so often, 
hastened to conclude his narrative in as few words as 
possible. 

He told how the yacht had sailed as far south as the 
latitude of the Gulf of Cabes; that no sign could be 
found of the Saharian Sea, the new French enterprise 
("no wonder ! " said the Englishmen's mutual glance) ; 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 227 

that a new coast of a most strange and startling forma- 
tion had suddenly sprung up north of Tripoli, which, 
having run eastwardly as far as a point between the 
14th and 15th meridians, suddenly formed a right angle 
with itself and followed a course directly north till it 
reached the Island of Malta. 

^^ Which island, I am sorry to say," interrupted Cap- 
tain Hector in a tone expressive of anything but sorrow, 
*' together with its cities, its forts, arsenals, dock-yards, 
soldiers, officers, and even its governor, has gone down 
to keep company with Algeria at the bottom of the 
sea!" 

A shadow instantly fell on the automatic faces, but 
only to vanish in a moment. 

^^The sudden disappearance of our Island of Malta," 
said Murphy, quietly, ^^is — hum — haw — rather in- 
credible. Captain Servadac." 

^' Why so. General? " asked the Captain, firing up. 

'^Are you aware," asked Oliphant, '^that — hum — 
Malta is an English possession ? " 

''I am just as well aware of that fact as I am that an 
Englishman is not a Fejee Islander," answered the Cap- 
tain rather pertly, and by no means trying to conceal his 
irritation. *^ Nevertheless, down she went like a lump 
of lead!" 

^'Gentlemen," said Murphy, not knowing what to 



228 TO THE SUN? 

make of this astounding information, and at last show- 
ing some real interest in his guests' story, ^^you must 
have made some mistake in your bearings." 

^^Some mistake, you know/' chimed in Oliphant. 

^'This confounding of east and west," continued 
Murphy, ^Ms calculated to puzzle — " 

^' I know it would puzzle me," candidly observed the 
Major, ^'and I don't really see how serious error can be 
possibly avoided — ' ' 

*^No, gentlemen," interrupted the Count calmly. 
^' No error whatever has been committed. You cannot 
help submitting to indisputable evidence. England has 
had her share in the general disaster. Not only has 
Malta disappeared, but a new continent has closed up 
the eastern half of the Mediterranean. Only for a nar- 
row break in the coast which we hit on almost provi- 
dentially at an instant of the greatest danger, we should 
have never been able to reach you. We are also very 
much concerned to add that every trace of the Ionian 
Islands has disappeared except what remains of your 
Corfu." 

^'Our Corfu!" repeated Murphy, evidently not un- 
derstanding what the Count meant by the expression. 
In his trouble, as usual, he mechanically looked at Oli- 
phant for assistance. 

'^ Count," asked the Major, ^^did you really say ^i// 
Corfu?'' 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY, 229 

^'Of course he did ! ^* answered the Captain quickly. 
*' Your Corfu — Corfu — what else could he say but your 
Cor-fu?^' 

(The Captain maliciously intensified the French pro- 
nunciation Cor-fou, amusing himself with the pun.) 

The two Englishmen were this time really too much 
astonished to speak; Murphy simply had no idea of 
what the strangers meant ; Oliphant kept silent for 
fear of making some blunder. 

'' Have you heard from England lately, General 
Murphy/' asked the Count, determined to come to 
an understanding, ^^ either by English vessel or sub- 
marine cable? *' 

^'No, Count Timascheff, we have not,'' answered 
Murphy; ^^no vessel has arrived and the cable is 
broken.'* 

'^Then why not put yourself in communication with 
England by means of the Italian wires? " 

^'Italian? Italian? You mean the Spanish wires, 
don't you?" 

''Well, Italian or Spanish, what's the difference," 
asked Servadac, ''so you have received news from 
London?" 

"We have received no news whatever for seven 
weeks," answered Murphy. "But no matter for that ' 
It 's a mere question of time ! ' 



230 TO THE SUNt 

^^ A pure question of time ! " echoed the Major. '' It 

can't be anything else — that is — " 

'^Unless there's no London to hear from!" inter- 
rupted Servadac, but with much gravity. 

^^No London!!" cried both officers, with one 
breath. 

'' No London, of course, if there 's no England ! " 

^^No England! ! " 

The two Englishmen jumped from their seats as lively 
as if a spring had shot them up. 

^'Before England is destroyed," said Murphy slowly, 
'^ France must dis — ' ' 

'^France is solider than England ! " interrupted Ser- 
vadac. ^^She must be solider since she is pait o\ 
the solid Continent! " 

^^ France solider than England ! ! " 

'^Certainly! England is only an island, and par^' 
of her were always low enough to be easily swallowee 
up by an angry sea ! ' ' 

'^Captain Servadac ! " cried Murphy, hardly able 
to speak with anger. ^^ You forget — " 

'^ Captain Servadac ! " interrupted Oliphant, red with 
passion. ''You don't seem to be aware — " 

''Gentlemen!" cried the Count, who, not being 
concerned in this bickering about nationalities, looked 
on it all as something very ridiculous, "gentlemen, 
with a little more coolness and patience — *' 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 23 1 

But the Captain would not let him finish. He was 
by this time so exasperated that he was perfectly willing, 
by fighting the two Englishmen then and there, to 
settle everything by the sword. But his French po- 
liteness shrunk from challenging a man in his own 
house, and he made a proposition. 

^^ Gentlemen," he observed with studied calmness, 
^'I think our little discussion would admit of easier 
settlement out of doors. You are here in your own 
house, you know. Suppose we adjourn to the fresh 
air." 

So saying, he stepped out of the room and was im- 
mediately followed by his three companions as far as 
a little platform in the upper part of the island. This 
the Captain evidently considered a kind of neutral 
territory, for once there he stopped, and when all 
were once more together, he took off his cap and 
addressed the English officers with the most winning 
politeness. 

'^Gentlemen," said he, '^however impoverished 
France may be since she has lost Algeria, she is still 
strong enough to reply to every attack, come from what 
quarter it may. Now I, a French officer, claim the 
same right to represent my country on this island as 
that on which you claim to represent England ! ** 

^' Eh ! " exclaimed Murphy. 



232 TO THE SUN? 

^^ What's that?'' cried Oliphant. 

**And since wo are here on neutral ground — " con- 
tinued the Captain. 

'^ Neutral ground ! " exclaimed Murphy. 

^^ You 're on English ground ! " cried Oliphant. 

^^ English ground!" repeated Servadac in great sur- 
prise. 

^^ Certainly English ground," said Murphy, who began 
to suspect that the Gascon Captain was making some 
mistake, ''or British ground rather, and protected by 
the British flag," he added, pointing to the royal stand- 
ard of Great Britain and Ireland floating from a flag- 
staff on the summit of a high rock. 

''That flag amounts to nothing!" cried Servadac, 
but in less assured tones; "you have simply run it up 
there since the catastrophe." 

"Pardon me. Captain, it was there long before." 

" Possibly, General, since you say so, but only as a 
flag of protection, not one of possession ! " 

"A flag of protection ! " exclaimed the two ofl&cers, 
opening their eyes. 

"Certainly," cried the Captain; "is not this rocky 
islet the sole remnant of what was once the territory of 
a Republic under English protection ? " 

"A Republic ! " gasped Murphy. 

^ ' Under English protection I " re-echoed Oliphant. 




THE FLAG OF THE ROCK. 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 233 

''And for my part," continued the Captain in ex- 
cited tones, ''I never could understand on what ground 
you based your claim to protect the Republic of the 
Ionian Islands ! ' * 

''The Ionian Islands!" cried both officers simul- 
taneously with the little breath that surprise had left 
them. 

The Englishmen should certainly know where they 
were, and their surprise was too genuine not to impart 
to the Captain some little misgiving. Had he com- 
mitted a blunder? If the Dobryna had not landed on 
the Ionian Islands, where could she have landed ? He 
began to feel somewhat disconcerted, and even the 
habitually cool, clear-headed Timascheff appeared de- 
cidedly puzzled. 

A short pause set the whole party more at their ease, 
and then Murphy addressed the Captain in calm and 
measured accents : 

" Captain Servadac, you are certainly laboring under 
some misconception for which I cannot possibly ac- 
count. Allow me to put an end to it. You stand this 
moment on a soil that is as English as England herself. 
It has been her property since 1704 by right of conquest, 
by right of possession, and by right of treaty. In 1727, 
1779, and 1782, united France and Spain contested 
these rights, but without success. We are, therefore, 



234 TO THE SUN'! 

now as much on English soil as if we were standing in 
the centre of Trafalgar Square, London.*' 

^^ Are we not in Corfu ? " asked the Captain. 

''Are we not in the Ionian Islands?'* asked the 
Count. 

*'No, gentlemen," replied Murphy. ''You are in 
Gibraltar." 

" Gibraltar ! ! " burst from the lips of the Count and 
the Captain, unable to believe their ears. 

"Gibraltar! Impossible!" cried the Count. "We 
sailed to one end of the Mediterranean; how can we 
be now at the other ? ' ' 

"Gibraltar! Impossible!" cried the Captain. "We 
sailed always east, and how can we be now in the west ? " 

"Nevertheless, Gibraltar it is," observed Oliphant in 
cutting tones — his blunder regarding Algeria was now 
fully avenged — "and I cannot understand how sailors 
of your experience — Hello, Pim, what's the matter 
now ? " 

Pim's sudden appearance on the scene cut short the 
Major's observation. No wonder. The Corporal was 
in a pitiable state. His clothes were torn, his eyes 
blackened, and his ears bleeding. He gave the military 
salute, however, with great gravity, and made the most 
praiseworthy efforts to "brace up and have some sty^ft 
about him," while he told his story. 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 235 

^*The men's had a (hiccup) a haltercation, Major 
and General/* said the Corporal in English, of course, 
but rather thickly, '^a halter- (hiccup) cation with them 
'ere Rooshian fellers. I tried to stop the row, but this 
(hiccup) is the way I got served out. My own fellers, 
I must say (hiccup) tore my uniform, but a Rooshian 
'it me on the 'ead with a hoar." 

^^Hit you on the head with an oar!" exclaimed 
Murphy to whom Oliphant looked for an expression 
of opinion. ^^Such conduct is monstrous! How was 
it all, Pim? I require to know it before ordering 
the fellow to be put in irons." 

^'It was all along of that 'ere last shot of ours. 
General," answered the Corporal. *^It seems, when 
the shell burst, one of the fragments knocked the 
pipe out of the beggar's mouth, and another (hiccup) 
fetched him on the nose and drew the blood. Has 
v\^ell as our men could hunderstand his lingo, the 
Rooshian did not much mind the hinjury done his 
nose. But the loss of his pipe he could not abear, 
allowing it was our duty to give him one hinstead. 
Our fellers only laughed and jeered, but the (hiccup) 
beggar, seeing Private Brown smoking, he goes right 
up to him, snatches the pipe out of his mouth and 
(hiccup) claps it into his hown ! " 

*^He shall be knouted for this!" said Timascheff, 
mortified at his serfs want of discipline. 



236 TO THE SUNf 

'^ Not at all; Count ! " cried Servadac quickly. '^ He 
did perfectly right ! What business had these crazy 
Englishmen to fire a shot that broke his pipe? " 

^^ Crazy Englishmen!" cried Murphy, reddening at 
the insult and involuntarily searching for his sword. 

'^ Crazy Englishmen ! " cried Oliphant, his eyes flash- 
ing with rage. '^No gentleman should ever use such 
an expression ! " 

^'Unless it is at once withdrawn," said Murphy, 
'' our interview is ended." 

^^ Yes, friend Servadac," hastily observed the Count, 
doing his best to keep cool; ^^such an expression 
can't be defended. Withdraw it." 

*^ Count," said Servadac calmly, ^^ I shall withdraw 
it with pleasure and even apologize for it, if you 
promise not to knout Panofka." 

^^Such a condition. Captain Servadac," interrupted 
Murphy, ^'proposed in our presence is only doubling 
the insult. We meant no harm to yourselves or your 
men. This being our Most Gracious Majesty's birth- 
day, we were firing a salute—" 

'^ Firing a salute with a hundred-pound shell!" in- 
terrupted Servadac. ^^ Gentlemen, this is really asking 
a little too much of our credulity ! " 

*^That such a proceeding was not in conformity with 
strict military regulations, I don't deny," said Murphy, 



A STARTLING DISCOVERY. 23/ 

somewhat in confusion, ^'but on Her Majesty's birth- 
day, you know, we — hum — haw — had taken, as usual, 
a few glasses of extra good Port — ' ' 

'^And your men, no doubt, a few glasses of extra 
good brandy!" interrupted Servadac, once more in 
good-humor. *'I see it all now! Come, Count! 
No need of further explanation ! I have the honor, 
gentlemen, to bid you a very good-morning ! " 

^^Yes," said the Count, '^it's now all quite clear. 
Good-morning, gentlemen," he added with a most 
ceremonious bow, ^^till we meet again." 

In a minute the two friends were at the little wharf, 
where they saw the Russian sailors resting on their 
oars, but far enough from shore to be in perfect safety 
from the heavy fists of the angry Englishmen. The 
Count and the Captain, however, made their way 
through the threatening crowd without any diffi- 
culty; the boat approached and picked them up 
without opposition ; and two hours afterwards, the 
Dobryna could see no more of the remains of the 
great fortress than a small black speck rapidly dis- 
appearing in the southern horizon. 



CHAPTER XV. 

ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE. 

THE Captain and the Count soon forgot the momen- 
tary irritation into which they had been thrown by 
the inhospitable conduct of the English officers. Under 
other circumstances they might have amused themselves 
over it, and even highly enjoyed the mystifications 
under which both parties had been laboring while en- 
deavoring to interchange their experiences. Even 
Procopius, with all his gravity and matter-of-fact ways, 
burst out every now and then into a hearty fit of laugh- 
ter while listening to the Captain's account of the inter- 
view with the haughty Englishmen who had been taking 
too much wine. 

But the astounding geographical fact they had just 
learned soon put an end at once and forever to all ideas 
of merriment. Procopius, hardly able to trust his ears, 
made both Count and Captain repeat several times the 
exact words of the English officers, as well as they could 
be recalled. This statement he wrote out carefully, and 
then corrected and amended the transcript according to 

238 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE. 239 

the suggestions of his listeners, until he was perfectly 
satisfied that he had learned all that could be learned 
from the English officers at Gibraltar. 

Now what had this interview taught them that admit- 
ted of no possible dispute whatever? Procopius wrote 
down the whole case, and read it aloud for his listen- 
ers to comment upon. 

^^ Starting from the west point of the Isle of Gourbi," 
so ran the paper, ' ^ that is to say, from thirty minutes 
east longitude (Greenwich), the Dobryna had met no 
stop in her eastern course until she arrived at 15° 30' 
east ; her direct eastern course, therefore, amounted to 
fifteen degrees. The strait, running also east, which 
had given them passage through the unknown continent 
and through which they had been driven with great 
velocity, could not be less than three degrees and a 
half in length. The distance from the east end of this 
strait to Gibraltar might be reckoned at about four 
degrees. Finally, the distance from Gibraltar to the 
west point of Gourbi is about seven degrees. The sum- 
mary of this eastern course can be seen in the following 
table : 

From west point of Gourbi to New Strait . . . 
" west point of New Strait to east point of do. 
** east point of New Strait to Gibraltar . . 
" Gibraltar to west point of Gourbi . . . 

Total length of eastern course, 30 00 



DEG. 


MIN. 


• 15 





• 3 


30 


. 4 


30 


• 7 


00 



240 TO THE SUN? 

**That is to say, the distance travelled by the Dohryna 
from her point of departure back to the same point, on 
the same parallel, always following an easterly course, 
or, what is precisely the same thing, sailing round the 
entire circumference of the earth, was now no more than 
30 degrees 1 

^^ First conclusion. — The other 330 degrees of the ter- 
restrial globe are absolutely and u?i accountably miss- 
ing. 

'' Before the catastrophe if, starting from Malta, we 
desired to reach Gibraltar by following an exclusively 
eastern course, we should first sail through the eastern 
half of the Mediterranean, then the Suez Canal, then 
the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Sunda, 
the Pacific, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. Whereas at 
present the face of nature is so changed that, instead of 
a voyage of enormous length, a new strait, less than two 
hundred miles long, had brought the Dobry?ia to within 
less than two hundred and twenty-five miles distance 
from Gibraltar ! 

'^ Second conclusion. — Our terrestrial globe at present 
can hardly be two thousand miles in circumference. 

''This is, no doubt, a most astounding conclusion,'' 
said Procopius, commenting on his paper, ^^but it is 
logically inevitable. The diameter of the world on 
which we are at present is not quite five hundred miles 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE, 24 1 

in lengthy that is, sixteen times shorter than it was before 
the catastrophe. Our very existence is not more certain 
than that we have sailed completely around the world — 
or what remains of it ! " 

*^Any other conclusion appears to me impossible/' 
observed the Count. ^^It certainly explains most of 
the strange phenomena so far observed. Thus, on a 
globe thus reduced in volume the force of gravity must 
be considerably diminished. And I can readily com- 
prehend why the rotation of its axis has been so acceler- 
ated that the interval of time elapsing between two 
sunrises is no more than twelve hours long. As to the 
new orbit which we are undoubtedly describing around 
the sun — let us see — how do you explain that, Proco- 
pius? I think you can do it." 

^^ Father, and friend Servadac," said Procopius in 
the solemn tones of conviction, ^^ there are no two 
ways of explaining our change of orbit. There is 
but one. K fragment has been blown off the sur- 
face of the Earth by some internal convulsion and 
has carried along with it a portion of the atmosphere. 
This fragment is now traversing the solar spaces in 
an orbit which is no longer the terrestrial. This frag- 
ment is our present and only home ! *■' 

The three men remained looking at each other for 
a few minutes in perfect silence, as if thunder-stricken 



242 TO THE SUN? 

by the revelation. It was certainly a plausible theory. 
As the Count had said, taking all the facts of the 
case into consideration, any other conclusion seemed 
impossible. There was scarcely a phenomenon that 
it left unexplained. But, on the other hand, what a 
monstrous supposition ! How repugnant to reason, 
to common sense, to the simplest natural law ! And, 
if true, what would be the consequence? The mind 
instinctively shrank from dwelling on this question, 
though it could not help recurring to it again and 
again. Where was the enormous block going? What 
path was it following? What was the eccentricity of 
its orbit ? How far from the sun would this new celes- 
tial body have to travel ? How long would it take to 
make a complete revolution around the centre of at- 
traction? Would it keep on moving, like certain 
comets, for myriad millions of miles through bound- 
less space? Would it ever return to the source of 
heat and life? Finally, did the plane of its orbit 
coincide with that of the Earth's near enough to give 
rise to the hope that some day or other it might once 
more be reunited with the globe from which it had 
been so suddenly and so violently separated ? 

These difficult questions, running hastily through 
the Captain's mind, perplexed him enough to make 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE. 243 

him look on Procopius's theory with considerable dis- 
favor, if not to reject it altogether. 

^^ Lieutenant," he cried at last, ^^I can't accept your 
explanation ! " 

*^ No ? Why not ? ' ' asked Procopius. 
'^Let us understand each other,*' said the Captain. 
^*Do you mean to say that a fragment of the Earth, 
comprising that portion of its surface lying between 
Gibraltar and Malta, is a new asteroid, our present 
place of abode, and now travelling in solar space?'* 
^^ Yes, that is exactly what I mean to say." 
'^I need not remind you, Lieutenant," said the 
Captain, ^^that accounting for some or even many 
phenomena is not enough to validate a theory. To 
be unobjectionable, it must account for alL One I 
will allude to, but will not press just now. How does 
your theory account for our present rotation from east 
to west? If we were a mere detached fragment of 
the Earth, should we not be still rotating, like the 
parent planet, from west to east? I will not, how- 
ever, press this question ; I have another of far greater 
importance, and which, I think, attacks your theory 
in its most vital part. How does your theory ex- 
plain the phenomenon of a crystal coast surrounding 
the sea? A fragment suddenly detached from the 
Earth should certainly show the granite and limestone 



244 TO THE SUNf 

foundation of the earth's surface, and not a crystal 
formation of so singular a character that we can*t 
form an idea of its real nature ! ' ' 

^^Yes, Procopius," said the Count, ''that *s a serious 
blow aimed at your extraordinary theory. Not that 
I consider your theory impossible or inconsistent with 
any physical law. We can easily conceive a fragment 
of surface to be suddenly detached from the Earth, 
that it carries off with it a portion of the atmosphere 
and of the Mediterranean waters, and even that its 
motions both of revolution and rotation are no longer 
identical with those of the Earth. All this we might 
readily admit for the sake of argument ; but, as the 
Captain asks, how does your theory explain the ap- 
pearance of this precipitous wall, bare, glassy, bleak, 
columnar, more like the Giant's Causeway on an exten- 
sive scale than the green, beautiful, and picturesque 
shores that fringe almost every portion of the Medi- 
terranean ? ' ' 

''I see the full force of the objections. Father," an- 
swered Procopius, ' ' and at present I must acknowledge 
that I cannot make the proper reply. Time, however, 
I am sure, will effectually solve the difficulty. A theory 
that explains many things otherwise totally inexplicable 
is not to be lightly abandoned merely because it cannot 
explain all." 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE, 245 

'' What do you think could have been the cause of the 
disruption? " asked the Count. 

''If I were permitted to guess at something of which 
I really know nothing," answered Procopius, '^I should 
say that the sudden expansion of some of the inconceiv- 
ably powerful forces at work in the Earth's centre was 
great enough to cause an explosion in a weak part of the 
Earth* s crust. The natural result followed. The enor- 
mous block was detached, and whirled into space- — " 

'^ Like a ball out of a gun," said the Count. 

''Like a cork out of a champagne-bottle," said the 
Captain. 

'' Such comparisons, gentlemen," said Procopius, 
smiling, ''may not exactly dignify the treatment of our 
question, but they certainly illustrate it, and are there- 
fore quite appropriate. We must not, however, forget 
that all we can say on such a subject is, and must be for 
many days to come, a mere guess. In our complex 
problem the unknown quantities still to be discovered 
are at present beyond number." 

" What may be the cause after all is of little import- 
ance comparatively wdth the fact itself," said the Cap- 
tain in a tone of forced resignation. " It 's of little dif- 
ference to me, for instance, ivhether I am on the whole 
Earth or only a part of it, provided France is there 
tool" 



246 TO THE SUNt 

'* France, yes, and Russia ! " added the Count. 

^^And of course Russia also!" said the Captain, 
hastily correcting his inadvertence. 

'^ Gentlemen,*' said Procopius quietly, ^^I do not see 
the slightest reason for supposing that either France or 
Russia is to be found on our new spheroid. Remember 
how very small it is. Even of the presence of England 
I have the strongest doubts. For seven weeks there has 
not been the slightest communication between Gibraltar 
and the mother country, either by land or sea, by letter 
or telegraph — a pretty good proof that no such com- 
munication is possible ! ' ' 

^'If we have neither France nor Russia, nor England 
with us," asked the Captain, in an incredulous tone, 
^*at what points do you think our spheroid must end? '* 

^^That question admits of a mathematical answer/' 
replied Procopius, ^^and presents no difficulty, certain 
data once admitted. Your Island Gourbi must occupy 
the equator, seeing that its days and nights are constantly 
equal. This equator being about 2000 miles long, the 
polar circumference must, of course, be also 2000 miles 
long, and the distance between the two poles should 
consequently be 1000 miles. Our north pole should 
therefore be about 500 miles north of the Isle of Gourbi, 
and the south pole should be at the same distance to 
the south. These points, marked on my chart, put our 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE. 247 

north pole on the shores of Provence, and our south 
pole in the Sahara on the twenty-efghth parallel." 

To all this neither the Captain nor the Count could 
offer any tenable objection. Still they were by no 
means convinced that Procopius was right. They 
neither accepted nor rejected his theory. Time alone 
could prove its validity. And with this settlement of 
the question they were for the present quite willing to 
abide. 

In the meantime, the Dobry^ia, enjoying magnifi- 
cent weather and a favorable wind, was rapidly making 
her way northwards. We say northwards, and mean 
it literally, because southern Spain had completely dis- 
appeared. Nothing but water could be seen in those 
points assigned by the chart to Malaga, Almeria, Cape 
de Gata, Cartagena, and Cape de Palos. It was not 
until the Dobryna, crossing the 37th parallel, had 
reached the latitude of Seville, that she once more 
encountered the same kind of crystal cliffs with which 
her eastern journey had already rendered her so fa- 
miliar. 

This coast, however, did not, like the other shores 
of the same nature, run exactly north and south, nor 
exactly east and west. It ran north-east as far as 
the parallel of Madrid, and then, turning suddenly to 
the south-east at a sharp angle, never stopped until 



248 TO THE SUNf 

it entered the site of the Mediterranean, disappearing 
in the direction of Formentera, the smallest and most 
southern of the Balearic Islands. 

It was while cruising around in these waters, search- 
ing for some traces of Cape St. Martin, that our ex- 
plorers made a most noteworthy discovery. 

On the morning of February 21st, a sailor's voice 
was heard crying out : 

^^ A bottle in sight on the starboard bow ! *' 

The Count and his companions had not yet finished 
breakfast, but the sailor's cry brought them quickly 
to the forecastle. The signalled object was seen 
plainly enough; lying only a little to the right of 
the ship's course, it was soon fished up and hauled 
on board. 

It was no bottle at all, but a leather case, in shape 
somewhat like a closed-up telescope. The cover had 
been carefully sealed to keep the water out, and the 
wax bore the impression, still quite legible, of P. R. 

Removing immediately to the cabin, they broke the 
seal, took off the cover, and drew out a written paper 
still quite dry and in no respect injured by the water. 
It was a simple ruled sheet, evidently torn out of a 
memorandum-book, and the words, followed by in- 
terrogation and exclamation points, all written in a 
large reversed hand, were as follows : 




A WAIF. 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE, 249 

Gallia??? 

Ab sole, au 15 Fev., dist. 59,000,000 1. ! 

Chemin parcouru de janv. ^ fev., 82,000,000 1. ! 

Vabene! All right ! Parfait!!! 

{Gallia??? 

From the sun, on February 15, distant 59 million leagues ! 

Distance travelled fro7n January to February, 82 million leagues i 

It goes well! All right ! Perfect 1 1 1) 

^^Now, gentlemen, what in the world is the mean- 
ing of all this?" asked the Count, when they had 
ail carefully examined the paper, back and front, up, 
down, and sideways. 

'^It means one thing anyway," answered the Cap- 
tain; '^the writer, whoever he was, must have been 
alive on the fifteenth of February, that is, not quite 
a week ago. ' ' 

^^That would appear so at least," said the Count 
cautiously. '^But mark the strangeness of the docu- 
ment. It is not signed. Nothing shows where it 
came from. It hardly gives a clue even to the nation- 
ality of the writer. It contains words in Latin, Italian, 
English, French — the last being certainly more nu- 
merous than all the others put together." 

'^ There does not seem to be any attempt at mysti- 
fication about it," said the Captain. ^*The case 
probably belongs to some astronomer who made his 
observations on board some ship or other." 



2SO TO THE SUN? 

^^ Hardly on board ship, Captain/' said Procopius. 
^'^In such circumstances, it is a bottle rather than 
a case that he v/ould have used to keep his paper 
dry. I rather think your astronomer must have been 
left all alone on some solitary island spared by the gen- 
eral catastrophe, and that, wishing to make known 
the result of his observations, he put his paper in 
a case, which no doubt he could have spared much 
more easily than a bottle." 

''Well, on land or on water," said the Count, ''it 
is of very little moment where you put your astron- 
omer. The important matter is to decipher his doc- 
ument. Let us begin at the beginning. What is this 
Gallia?'' 

"No planet I ever heard of," said the Captain, 
"bears such a name." 

"Captain, before going any further," observed Pro- 
copius, " may I ask you a question ? " 

"A thousand, if you like, my dear Lieutenant? " 

"Don't you think that this paper. Captain, seems to 
conform with our theory of a fragment. of the Earth 
having been whirled into space ? " 

"Well — rather — yes, I don't deny that it really 
does somewhat conform with your theory," answered 
Servadac, " though our objection regarding the materia] 
of the asteroid exists quite as strongly as ever." 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE, 2^\ 

'*In such a case then/' said Procopius, ^^the astrono- 
mer must have given the name Gallia (Gaul) to the 
new asteroid." 

'^Then the astronomer must be a Frenchman/' said 
the Captain quickly. 

'^Not at all unlikely/' continued Procupius. '^ Now 
then, notice, if you please, gentlemen, that, of the 
eighteen words contained in this document, eleven are 
French, three Latin, two Italian or Spanish, and two 
English. This seems to show that the astronomer, not 
knowing into whose hands his paper would fall, was 
desirous to increase its chances of being understood by 
employing words of four or five different languages." 

^^ Suppose we admit that Gallia is the name of our 
new asteroid gravitating in space, ' ' said the Count ; 
'4et us continue our examination of the paper. Frotfi 
the sun, distance on February 15, fifty -nine millions of 
leagues. What is the meaning of that ? ' ' 

^^Such really was the distance, about 144 million 
miles, separating us from the sun at that date," re- 
plied Procopius, referring to his note-book; ^^ we were 
then cutting the orbit of Mars." 

^*Good!" said the Count. ^^So far the document 
agrees with our own observations. Now then — Dis- 
tance travelled from January to February, eighty- two 
millions of leagues. How 's that ? " 



252 TO THE SUNf 

*^That must refer/* said Captain Hector, '^to the 
distance Gallia must have gone in her new orbit/' 

'* Precisely," said Procopius. ^^Now let us remem- 
ber the law of Kepler that says a planet must describe 
equal angles in equal times. By virtue of this law, its 
velocity must diminish while performing the perihelion. 
On the fifteenth of January our thermometer stood at its 
highest point — a proof that we were then nearest to the 
sun, that is, performing our perihelion. What we read 
in this paper, therefore, is not at all improbable. 
Gallia might easily be moving at that time at a velocity 
of about II thousand leagues per hour, or 82 million 
leagues, or 200 million miles in a month." 

'^Such a velocity is neither impossible nor improb- 
able," said Servadac; '^but it throws no light whatever 
on other questions of far greater importance, namely, 
how far Gallia will be from the sun at her aphelion, 
and if she is ever to return." 

^^On these questions. Captain," said Procopius, 
'' the paper so far certainly throws no light whatever. 
But, by means of careful observations made at several 
points of her orbit, we may ourselves succeed in deter- 
mining her elements — " 

'' No doubt of it ! " quickly observed the Count ; ^^ if 
Gallia is an asteroid, she must, like all moving bodies, 
obey the laws of motion, and, like all planets, she must 



ONE SOLUTION OF THE RIDDLE. 253 

submit to the influence of the sun. The instant such 
a block separates itself from the Earth, that very in- 
stant it is grappled by the invisible hands of attrac- 
tion, and its orbit rendered unchangeable at once and 
forever. * ' 

"That is to say. Count Timascheff," observed Pro- 
copius, "unless some other asteroid comes near enough 
to disturb such orbit by its interference. We must 
remember that, Gallia being a mere pin's head in 
comparison with other members of the solar system, 
the major planets are likely to exercise an irresistible 
influence over her. ' ' 

"Yes, it is pretty clear,*' observed the Captain, "that 
she may meet with very troublesome encounters on 
her road, and may even jump her track altogether. — 
But here we are all talking as if we really and truly 
believed ourselves to be all Gallians ! Who knows 
but that the Gallia spoken of in the document is 
some new asteroid of the kind regularly discovered 
once a week ? " 

"No, Captain,'* said Procopius, "the asteroids of 
which you speak, about 160 to 170 by last accounts, 
are all found in a small zone lying between Mars 
and Jupiter. Consequently, they never approached 
the sun so closely as Gallia has done at her perihe- 
lion/' 

22 



254 TO THE SUN? 

**We should soon settle the question," said the 
Count; ^^if we only had proper instruments to take 
an observation with — ' ' 

^*But until we get them/' said the Captain, 'Sve 
must console ourselves with the last advices of our 
sanguine astronomer ; * // goes well ! All right ! Per- 
fect r '' 



CHAPTER XVL 

A RELIC OF PROVENCE. 

WHILST the explorers thus pursued a conversation 
in which, almost unconsciously, the word Gallia 
was fast assuming a geographical value in their eyes, 
the Dobryna, doubling the enormous promontory that 
had opposed her northern route, was now sailing as 
nearly as possible in the direction of the eastern end 
of the P3Tenees. Following the new coast-line as 
closely as could be done with safety and sailing al- 
most directly north, she soon found herself near the 
site of Barcelona. But that important city had dis- 
appeared like all the rest. Dark waves rolled over 
its streets and broke themselves in fleecy foam on 
the new cliffs that had sprung up so suddenly to the 
west. Here the coast took a new turn to the north- 
east, following a line almost exactly straight as far as 
the site of Cape Creux. 

But neither of Cape Creux, the most easterly point 
of Spain, nor of the Pyrenees, nor of Port-Vendres 
with the famous lighthouse, nor of the mouth of the 

255 



256 TO THE SUNf 

Tech, could the slightest trace now be seen. The 
explorers were now actually in French waters, and 
the Captain's feelings may be imagined when he saw 
a new continent take the place of his native land. 
A lofty barrier, absolutely impenetrable and unscala- 
ble, rose between him and the French coast. A moun- 
tain wall, more than a thousand feet high, never pre- 
senting the slightest hold by which it might be climbed, 
as bare, bleak, glassy, and *^new'' as it had been at 
the other side of the Mediterranean, tliis crystal coast 
now followed pretty closely the line once pursued by 
the picturesque shores of Roussillon and Languedoc. 

Than the plain close to which they were now 
sailing, France could show none richer. Even Lom- 
bardy could not surpass it. The warmest and at the 
same time the best-watered soil in France, it seemed 
to be the native land of the orange, the palm, and 
the date trees; the home of perpetual orchards, gar- 
dens and vineyards. But it had all disappeared. It 
was the same further north. No sign of Cape Leucate, 
whose chalky perpendicular cliffs two hundred feet 
high so often reminded the sailor of the southern 
shores of England. No sign of the spires of Nar- 
bonne, of the mountain-chain of La Clape five "or 
six hundred feet high, nor of the extinct volcano 
of Saint Loup, nor of the little fort Brescon erected 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE. 257 

on a lonely basalt rock, nor of Cette, built on the 
/lanks of Mount Setius and till lately the second 
port of the Mediterranean. Nor of Frontignan, with 
its beautiful hotel de ville ; nor of Aigues Mortes, 
the historical city of Saint Louis. The Camargue, the 
delta of the Rhone, gone ! The stone-strewed plain 
of Crau, gone ! The numberless mouths of the Rhone, 
all gone ! The church of the Three Maries, built on 
the spot where the three holy women are said to have 
landed a short time after our Saviour's death, gone ! 
Martigues, the Venice of Provence, gone ! Marseilles, 
its harbor, its forts, its churches, its bastidos, all gone ! 
Servadac began to fear that he should never see again 
one single point of continental Europe that had borne 
the name of France. 

Not that he easily surrendered all hope. Often when 
the direction of the coast changed a little northwards, 
he confidently expected to be soon able to catch a 
glimpse of some part of the French soil that had 
escaped the disaster. But, vain hope ! Whether tlie 
new line was long or short, it afforded no glimpse what- 
ever of what had been till lately the wonderfully beau- 
tiful coast of Provence. When it was not the new coast 
that covered the old line, it was the waters of this strange 
Mediterranean that flowed over it always, always, merci- 
lessly, remorselessly. 

22* R 



258 TO THE SUN? 

Is all the old land of France indeed gone ? the Cap* 
tain asked himself. Does nothing remain of all the 
French territory, except that shred of Algeria, the little 
Isle of Gourbi? Must there not be something behind 
that crystal wall? In spite of the strongest evidence 
to the contrary, may we not be still inhabitants of the 
old Earth and not of the new Gallia ! If so, must not 
France be there, and Germany, and Russia, and the 
most of Europe? Can we not find some means of 
scaling these frowning steeps and thus obtaining some 
knowledge of what they conceal from view? Can't 
we land somewhere, Count? Can't we land anywhere, 
Lieutenant ? 

No landing was possible. No creek afforded shelter. 
Not even a rock appeared large enough to set foot on 
Its direction this coast changed occasionally, but its old 
character never. Its base, as before, was smooth, 
slippery, perpendicular, and never less than two or 
three hundred feet high. Its summit, as before, was 
a vast fantastic forest of crystallized peaks, needles, 
blocks, pillars, obelisks, monoliths, serrated crags, now 
red and dazzling in the rising sun, now black as ink 
in the gloomy shade. The description on the first day 
would do for every day. As the Captain said, it had 
been all cast in the same mould. 

The Dobryma still headed eastwardly with full steam 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE, 259 

on. The weather was fine and singularly clear. The 
atmosphere was almost too cool to retain vapor. A few 
clouds, streaking the sky here and there, formed gauze 
veils of almost perfect transparency. The sun, how- 
ever, our travellers could not help noticing, was getting 
visibly smaller and his light less brilliant. The stars, 
on the contrary, were brighter than ever. Some 
planets, indeed, were gradually fading away. Mercury 
had disappeared altogether. Venus gave only a feeble 
glimmer A new planet — Procopius called it the 
Earth, and the Captain tried to persuade himself that 
it was its enormous disc he had seen that night on the 
Sheliff — was fast losing her former splendor. Even 
Mars, latterly such an attractive object, and so near 
that his satellites, never before suspected, could now be 
easily seen, began to grow less dazzling in his blaze. 
Jupiter, on the contrary, and Saturn grew larger, more 
radiant, more beautiful every day. Even Uranus, 
usually invisible without a very good telescope, could 
be detected by a sharp eye. Procopius explained all 
this by saying that Gallia, retreating from the centre 
of attraction, was plunging deeper and deeper into 
the boundless realms of solar space j and his compan- 
ions did not undertake to contradict him. 

Coasting along what was once the winding shore 
of the department of Var, and seeking in vain for 



26o TO THE SUNt 

Toulon, the delightful islands of Hyeres, the Gulf of 
Saint Tropez large enough for the evolutions of a war 
fleet, Frejus with its Roman remains, Cannes with 
its enchanting position, the Lerins Islands, recalling 
the Man in the Iron Mask, the Dobryna found her- 
self, on the twenty-fourth of February, sailing over 
the Gulf of Jouan, and approaching the spot till lately 
occupied by the little fortified city of Antibes. 

Here, to the extreme surprise but also to the pro- 
found satisfaction of our explorers, a narrow, perpen- 
dicular fissure was seen cutting the enormous cliff 
from base to summit. On its left side, a few feet 
above the water, a little stretch of beach extended, 
where a boat could easily effect a landing. 

^^At last!'^ cried Captain Hector, hardly able to 
contain his joy. His companions were hardly less 
excited at this unexpected prospect of some immediate 
discovery. Through the opening they could see a 
rugged slope gradually ascending, like the dry bed of 
a mountain torrent. By following this natural stair- 
case might they not succeed in reaching the top of * 
the cliff? And once there could they not get a view, 
if not of the French territory, at least of the strange 
country that had replaced it ? 

Landing at seven o'clock in the morning, their 
attention was immediately attracted by some relics 




UP THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAINS. 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE. 26 1 

of the former coast : namely, those concrete lime peb- 
bles of a yellow color that are so frequently found on 
the Proven9al shores. But these, souvenirs of a former 
state of things, though highly interesting in themselves, 
could not delay our explorers longer than a few minutes 
from hurriedly ascending the ravine which they were 
desirous to examine. 

This ravine was quite dry, and it had evidently never 
been the bed of a roaring torrent. The rocks forming 
its floor, as well as those lining its steep sides, presented 
the same metallic, laminated texture so far noticed 
everywhere else, and they showed none of the effects 
of ordinary disintegration. A geologist would prob- 
ably experience little difficulty in assigning them their 
proper rank in a lithological scale, but none of our 
explorers knew enough either of geology or mineralogy 
to speak with sufficient accuracy regarding their precise 
nature. 

Though still perfectly dry, it was, however, easy to 
see that, in case of change of climate, this ravine might 
one day become the outlet of a considerable quantity 
of water. Already even little caps of snow glittered 
here and there on the tops of the pillars and in the 
niches of the slopes; and the greater the altitude of 
the road, the broader, thicker, and more numerous 
these caps became. It was quite possible that the 



262 TO THE SUN? 

mountain valleys, and even the whole country lying 
beyond this wall, would disappear altogether under the 
white shroud of great enveloping glaciers. 

^'This snow is the first irace of fresh water I have 
seen so far on Gallia," said Procopius. 

^^Yes, and, if this cold keeps on, we shall soon find 
not only snow but plenty of thick solid ice too," said 
the Count. 

^^This cold must continue," said Procopius. ^^ Re- 
member we are here in the arctic regions of Gallia where 
the solar rays, coming only very slantingly, cannot im- 
part much heat. Here, it is true, we can never have 
real night, as the sun is always vertical to the equator. 
But in time the cold, even on the equator, must be 
exceedingly great if Gallia's orbit carries her a consider- 
able distance from the centre of the solar system." 

^'Lieutenant," asked the Count, ''is there no danger 
of the cold becoming so excessive on Gallia's surface 
that no living creature could endure it ? " 

"To that question," replied Procopius, "Fourier, an 
illustrious French physicist, would answer decidedly, 
No! — his experiments having convinced him that the 
temperature of interstellar space, that is, space en- 
tirely deprived of air, never falls much below 60 or 
70 Fahrenheit below zero." 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE. 263 

''7c below zero!" exclaimed the Count; ^^why, 
even in St. Petersburg we cannot endure that ! ' ' 

^^But other and later authorities," continued Pro- 
copius, ^^ notably Pouillet and Sir John Herschel, 
would answer decidedly, Yes ! — their experiments 
having convinced them that the temperature of space 
may sink as low as 220 or 230 Fahrenheit below zero." 

'* Excuse me, gentlemen, for interrupting this in- 
teresting conversation," said the Captain, ^^but really 
I must stop a little to catch my breath." 

Yielding to his usual impetuosity, he had run ahead 
of his companions, and was of course the first to ex- 
perience the effects of the rarity of the atmosphere usual 
at great altitudes. The rest was very grateful to all, 
for though they had as yet risen no more than five 
or six hundred feet, they began to feel a very great 
difficulty in breathing. They soon recovered, but 
thought proper to resume the journey a little more 
slowly; the road, however, was unobstructed, and, 
though they stopped every now and then to accom- 
modate their lungs to the increasing rarity, in about 
two hours they reached the ridge of the cliffs. 

The Captain was the first to touch the summit. His 
companions saw him look eagerly to the north, and 
then heard his mournful cry of despair. 

France was not there ! No country was there ! 



264 TO THE SUN? 

Rocks rose behind rocks, peaks behind peaks, crests 
behind crests, high into the northern sky, and all 
along the horizon from east to west ! Moraines, 
leaden-gray icy seas, glaciers, icebergs, cairns, serrated 
crags, black straight walls, and snow-streaked moun- 
tains were mingled together in bewildering confu- 
sion, and yet not without a kind of strange uni- 
formity. It was all an enormous agglomeration of 
matter that had crystallized in the shape of hexagonal 
prisms. Gallia appeared to be the production of a 
single mineral formation unique and unknown. If the 
coast bordering on the Mediterranean did not always 
present the same uniformity of pinnacles in its upper 
portion as prevailed in the interior of the continent, 
it was because the occurrence of some other phe- 
nomenon at the moment of the cataclysm — probably 
that to which the presence of the ocean was due — 
had perhaps somewhat modified the peculiarity of the 
general texture. 

Nowhere the slightest trace of a European land ! 
Everywhere the ancient soil replaced by the new ! 
In vain did the Captain's eye seek for the lovely 
landscapes of Provence : its citron and orange gar- 
dens rising in stone-faced terraces over the blue waves ; 
its olive groves of sea-green foliage; its majestic 
avenues of pepper-trees, nettle- trees, mimosas, palms, 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE. 265 

and eucalyptuses ; its odoriferous thickets of gigantic 
geraniums, sprinkled here and there with brilliant bean- 
trees and long-stemmed aloes ; its foreground of rust- 
stained rocks ; its magnificent back ground of dark 
mountains bristling with forests of pine. 

Nowhere the slightest trace of vegetable — in such 
stony soil even the snow lichens, the hardiest of the 
polar plants, could not find sustenance ! Nowhere the 
slightest trace of vegetable — even a petrel of the arctic 
regions could not live here a single day ! 

Everywhere mineral — mineral in all its aridity, deso- 
lation and horror ! 

Servadac, overwhelmed by an emotion of which he 
had not considered himself capable, stood motionless on 
the summit of a frozen rock. In vain his moistened 
eyes made a last effort to catch some glimpse of his dear 
France in the dreary region before him. His heart was 
sinking low, but with an expiring effort he roused him- 
self to a new hope. 

'^No ! " he cried wildly; '' in spite of experience, in 
spite of my own eyes, in spite of your calculations, I 
cannot believe it ! France still exists ! Vv^e cannot 
yet have reached the Maritime Alps ! That this crys- 
tal continent has suddenly sprung up out of the waves, 
I don't deny. But it has not destroyed France ! 
'^>eyond it she still lives ! Come, dear friends, let 
23 



266 TO THE SUN? 

US cross this icy territory ! Let us explore more care- 
fully—'' 

He had gone some yards ahead of his companions 
in his eagerness to discover some path through this 
impenetrable jungle of hexagonal pillars. Suddenly 
he stopped. His foot had kicked something from 
under the snow. It was a bit of cut stone differing 
too much in shape and color from the surrounding 
rocks not to attract instant attention. Hastily picking 
it up, he found it to be a fragment of yellow marble 
covered all over with traces of some inscription. He 
showed it to his companions, who examined it with 
much interest, though for some time they could not 
make out a single letter. At last they read VIL — 

'^ Villa!" cried the Captain suddenly and in such 
surprise that the slab slipped out of his nerveless grasp 
and was instantly broken into countless fragments. 

Was this indeed all that remained of some of the gor- 
geous marine villas that crowned the slopes of Cape 
Garoupe, the most lovely site on earth for pavilion, 
palace or chateau? Well did the three explorers re- 
member the pleasant summer evenings they had once 
spent in the Hotel du Golfe built on this very spot, 
when the sun setting behind the Var mountains turned 
the Gulf of Jouan into a living sea of fretted gold. 
On the north extended the splendid panorama of the 




A MORSEL OF OLD EARTH. 



A RELIC OF PROVENCE, 267 

snow-crowned Alps from Draguignan on the west by 
Grasse, Nice, Monaco, Vintimiglia, to Bordighera, the 
home of the palms, the last point visible on the Cornice 
Road in the extreme east. Southward heaved the blue 
waters of the Mediterranean, whilst in the south-east 
the mountains of Corsica, piercing the azure, showed 
white and rosy like the glorious city of a golden dream ! 

A dream indeed our explorers now felt it to be, and 
a most gloomy one, in the presence of the stern reality 
all around them. The Captain was particularly despond- 
ent. His last hope had vanished. The frightful stony 
desert that surrounded them seemed to crush his life 
out. 

''Dante!" he cried, ''never did your phantasm- 
haunted imagination conjure up vision more dismal 
than the reality now environing us ! The grim face 
of yonder rocks is just the spot to carve the appalling 
words of your shriek of despair : 

^ Las date ogni speranza voi che ^ntrate .^ ' *' 

"No hope! No hope ! " he cried, sitting down and 
holding his head in his hands, unable to stand any 
longer. 

*'Dear friend," said the Count endeavoring to console 
him, "things are really no worse now than they were 
before the discovery of the slab. We must not sin 



268 TO THE SUN? 

against hope. Despair is even worse than presumption. 
Did you not know some members of the Hope family 
in England ? ' ' 

'^ Yes/' said the Captain almost mechanically. 
^^ You remember their motto ? '* 
^'No.'* 
''IX. is: 

Orhe fracto, spes illcBsa ! 
* Hope soars over a crumbled universe ! "* 

^^ You 're right, Count!" said the Captain, rising 
with renewed animation. ^'It's a better motto than 
Dante's. Henceforward let it be ours ! " 



CHAPTER XVII. 

WHAT WAS LEFT OF ITALY. 

WHITHER now, friends?" asked the Count of 
his companions once more assembled on the 
deck of the Dobry7ia, 

"Ho the Isle of Gourbi ! " cried the Captain, ^^t 
seems to be the only part of the old Earth now left to 
us — not to mention/' he added with a deprecating 
smile, ^^that to me it is almost a portion of my dear 
France ! " 

^^ Captain," said Procopius, ^* before returning to 
your island, which in my opinion we must do pretty 
soon in any case, allow me to remind you that a portion 
even of the limited coast of the new Mediterranean is 
still unexplored. As yet we know nothing of the re- 
gion lying between Antibes and that v/estern opening 
of the narrow strait by which we escaped into the 
waters of Gibraltar. And we also know nothing of 
what lies between the Gulf of Cabes and the eastern 
opening of the same strait. We have followed the old 
line of the African coast, but not the new one. Who 
23 ^ 269 



2/0 TO THE SUNf 

can say that every issue to the south is closed? May 
not some fertile oasis of the Algerian Sahara have 
escaped the general catastrophe ? Besides, Italy, Sicily, 
the Balearic Islands, Corsica or Sardinia may still be 
left. It would certainly be worth our while to try." 

'^I think you are right, Lieutenant," said the Cap- 
tain ; '^ the first thing to be done is perhaps to complete 
our survey of the new Mediterranean." 

^^ Unless that could be done after revisiting the 
island," suggested the Count. 

•^Father," observed Procopius, '^our time for ex- 
ploring will not last long. We must make the most 
of the little left us." 

^^What do you mean, Procopius?" asked the Count. 

''Our temperature," was the reply, ''is steadily 
diminishing; Gallia is following a line that removes 
her further and further from the sun ; the time can't be 
far off when we must experience very severe cold. Of 
course, the sea then congeals, navigation becomes im- 
possible, and difficult exploration over ice-fields is the 
only resource left us. Would it not therefore be better 
to continue our exploration while the sea is still open? " 

"You are right again. Lieutenant," said the Cap- 
tain. "Let us satisfy ourselves that, even if there is no 
discovery to be made, we have done our best to make 
one." 



WffA T WAS LEFT OF ITAL V. 2*] I 

^'It is quite possible, after all, that some poor hu- 
man beings may have temporarily escaped the terrible 
calamity/' said the Count warmly. ^^We should 
never forgive ourselves if we afterwards found out 
that even one of our race had perished for want of 
timely succor. ' ' 

^' Count," exclaimed the Captain, ^*you are more 
than right I Whatever human creature we might pick 
up, were it even the most miserable specimen of hu- 
manity possible, we should and would regard as our 
brother — a survivor of our dear old mother Earth ! " 

^^ Besides," added the matter-of-fact Procopius, '^we 
should need all the help we may get. If we are never 
to return to the old Earth we must make the new Earth 
as comfortable as possible ! ' ' 

On the twenty-fifth of February, the Dobryna was 
again sailing eastwardly, following the crystal coast on 
her left as closely as safety permitted. A brisk breeze 
blew from the west and the cold began to bite. The 
thermometer was as low as two or three degrees below 
freezing-point, but fortunately salt water is not so readily 
frozen as fresh. The Dobryna was therefore still free, 
though not a moment was to be lost. 

The nights were now most lovely. The gradually 
cooling layers of the atmosphere becoming drier and 
drier, the clouds grew thinner and thinner, and finally 



2/2 TO THE SUNf 

disappeared altogether. The constellations blazed out 
with incomparable splendor. How happy would an 
astronomer have considered himself if placed in a 
position so favorable for sounding the mysterious 
depths of the starry heavens ! Our friends were not 
astronomers, but they gazed on the spangled plains of 
night with something of the sense of happiness induced 
by reviving hope. 

On the night of the 26th, they had a new experi- 
ence. They suddenly found themselves in the midst of 
a display of fireworks, in comparison to which the most 
magnificent bouquet of rockets ever let off by Ruggieri 
would be no more than a box of matches set on fire 
by accident. A hail-storm of shooting-stars streaked 
the black sky. They all seemed to start from Algol, 
the Demon star of Perseus, and flared through Gallia's 
atmosphere with the intensity of sulphur burning in 
oxygen and with the white, dazzling glare of an elec- 
tric lamp. The rocks of the crystal coast, reflecting 
the glittering radiance from innumerable points, looked 
like the magnificent diamond palace of an Arabian tale. 
The phosphoric sea blazed with the silvery radiance, 
and its heaving billows sparkled and coruscated like 
countless mirrors of polished steel. 

The Gallia in fact was now passing through the 
meteoric ring that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and 




METEORS. 



WHAT WAS LEFT OF ITAL V. 2/3 

is almost concentric with the Earth's orbit. Were 
these millions of shooting-stars the sole remains of 
some planet that had come to a premature end through 
a catastrophe somewhat resembling that which had just 
befallen the Earth? Was Gallia herself no more than 
one of these meteors, only on a larger scale, and fol- 
lowing a more eccentric orbit? These questions our 
explorers could not answer, but of one fact they were 
soon fully assured. Gallia was moving onwards with 
enormous rapidity, for the grand meteoric display 
hardly lasted twenty-four hours. 

For some time lately the Dohryna' s eastern course 
had been stopped by a long projection of the coast, 
running southwards as far as the extremity of the 
former island of Corsica. Of this famous island the 
slightest trace could not now be seen. Noj of the 
Straits of Bonifacio which till lately had separated 
Corsica from Sardinia. Nothing but a vast sea, bare, 
black and gloomy. 

Early on the morning of February 26, the cry of 
^^Land ahead!" brought our explorers rapidly on 
deck. A black spot was easily seen some miles to the 
south-east; it was evidently an island and, unless of 
recent origin, should be the remains of Maddalena, 
Caprera or some other of the little islands north of 

S 



274 TO THE SVNt 

Sardinia. As for Sardinia itself, it was no more visi- 
ble than Corsica. 

In less than another hour our three explorers were 
rapidly approaching the islet. To their great satis- 
faction, it presented none of the terrific crystal for- 
mation to which of late they had been so much ac- 
customed. It rose gently from the water with a smooth 
slope covered with rich green grass. Here and there a 
little thicket of myrtles and mastics could be seen. Else- 
where a grove or two of old olives showed themselves. 
On the whole scene the travellers' eyes rested for some 
time with unalloyed delight. But they looked around 
in vain for some sign of a human being or of a 
human habitation. Neither could be seen. Ascend- 
ing a little eminence whence the ocean could be dis- 
cerned in. all directions, the explorers found, to their 
great disappointment, that the islet was very small, 
containing no more than a few acres at most, and 
giving no sign whatever of the abode of a human 
creature. 

They were returning with heavy hearts to the little 
creek where they had left the boat, when their ears 
were suddenly greeted by the bleating of some do- 
mestic animal, and their eyes were as suddenly greeted 
by the sight of a beautiful little pet goat looking at 





'SM0^!p^^}^ 





NINA AND MARZY. 



PVHA T WAS LEFT OF ITAL K 2/5 

them through the thicket and unmistakably signalling 
them to approach ! 

'^That goat is not alone, you maybe sure!" cried 
the Captain, running towards the mastic thicket, 
closely followed by his companions. 

Peering through the branches, they saw that they 
themselves had been seen, and were now timidly ex- 
amined by two large black eyes belonging to a little 
girl seven or eight years old, of the pure Italian type, 
and pretty as one of Murillo's angels in the Assump- 
tion. 

Having eagerly scanned her discoverers for a minute 
or two, her eyes gradually began to express reassurance, 
and her lips at last broke into a sweet confiding smile. 
Starting up suddenly, she ran towards them without 
hesitation, stretched out her little hands, and exclaimed 
in accents as charming as her country's lovely language : 

'^I signori non sono cattivi ! No mi faranno male! 
No bisogna ch' io abbia paura ! ' ' 

(The gentlemen are not wicked ! They will not hurt 
me ! I must not be afraid, must I ?) 

^^No! figliuolina mia 1 " said the Count, also in 
Italian. '^ Siamo amici 1 Ti amaremo carissamente ! " 

(No, my dear child. We are friends. We shall love 
you very dearly !) 



276 TO THE SUN? 

He took her hand gently and rubbed it for a little 
while to give her confidence. 

'^ Come si chiama carina mia? '^ he asked. 

(What 's your name, my dear?) 

'' Nina," was the ready reply. 

^' Nina, pote Ella dirci dove siamo ? " asked the Count 
again. 

*^A Maddalena," she replied. ^^Lastava io quando 
tutto tutto si cangio subitamente ! ' * 

(At Maddalena. At least I was there when everything 
changed all of a sudden !) 

A few more questions, answered by very intelligent 
replies, informed the explorers that little Nina was all 
alone in the island, that, her father and mother being 
dead, she had been tending goats for a neighboring 
farmer when all at once everything suddenly disappeared 
all around her except the bit of land on which they now 
stood, that herself and her goat Marzy had been the only 
survivors of the earthquake, that she had been terribly 
frightened, but, soon recovering courage, that she had 
knelt down and thanked the dear good God for having 
made the earth stop shaking, and that then she had done 
the best she could to keep herself and her only friend 
Marzy alive. Very fortunately she had been supplied 
that same day with a small stock of provisions which had 
lasted so far ; she had prayed every morning and even- 



WHAT WAS LEFT OF ITAL V. 2// 

ing for a boat to come and take her away. She had seen 
the boat coming, but was too much afraid at first to let 
herself or Marzy be seen. She was not afraid, however, 
to go now with the good gentlemen if they would only 
take poor Marzy too along. The poor animal would 
surely die if left alone on the island, and how could 
Nina then ever restore Marzy to Marzy' s owner? 

Nina's proposition was unconditionally accepted. 
Captain Hector loved the gentle creature already almost 
as dearly as his own little sister. Marzy offered no ob- 
jection to the general arrangement, and in less than 
half an hour afterwards the Dobryna received this most 
unexpected addition to her crew with the heartiest wel- 
come. The sailors, in particular, were overjoyed at their 
good fortune in finding the child. It was a most lucky 
sign, they said ; they called her their good angel, and 
almost imagined that she had wings. From the very 
first day among them she went by no other name than 
The Little Madonna. 

In a few hours all that remained of Maddalena was com- 
pletely lost from view. The Dobryna^ starting on a north- 
east course, soon found herself once more as close as she 
could venture to the crystal coast, which now ran some- 
what parallel to the old Italian shore, but more than a 
Hundred miles farther seaward. Near the 42d parallel, 
that of Rome, a vast gulf had been formed, which, how- 



278 TO THE SUN? 

ever, as a hasty examination soon convinced our ex- 
plorers, retreated as far back as to cover up the site of 
the Eternal City, but afforded no farther outlet. At the 
latitude of Naples the new coast nearly coincided with 
the old, that of Lower Calabria at the extreme toe of 
the boot. But no more Lipari Islands ; no more Straits 
of Messina ; no more Sicily j no more Etna even, though 
that enormous volcano had once lifted its smoking sum- 
mit to a height of nearly eleven thousand feet above the 
level of the sea. 

About a hundred and fifty miles farther south, the 
Dobryna found herself once more at the west entrance 
of the strait which had so providentially given her 
refuge during the frightful storm of the sixteenth of 
February, and the eastern end of which opened into 
the sea of Gibraltar. 

The coast directly south of this point having been 
already examined, further exploration in this direction 
was evidently useless. Procopius, therefore, turning 
directly south-west, followed that course as far as par- 
allel 34, where, on the third of March, he found him- 
self once more close to the crystal coast, and very near 
the point where they had first discovered it. 

Here therefore the Dobryna turned directly west and 
followed the new coast as far as what once was the oasis 
of Ziban, south of the centre of the Province of Con* 



WHAT WAS LEFT OF ITAL Y, 279 

stantina. Making a sharp turn at this point, the coast 
ran south to the 3 2d parallel, the boundary of Beled el 
Jerid. It soon, however, turned north-west, thus form- 
ing a deep, irregular, triangular-shaped gulf, everywhere 
framed by the everlasting mineral formation. Follow- 
ing its new course for about four hundred miles, it 
crossed the Algerian Sahara, and rejoined the old coast 
at a point between Oran and Mostaganem. 

But this point reached, no Oran, no Marocco even. 
Instead of going west the coast took a sharp and sudden 
turn southwardly, and soon disappeared in the distance. 
No discovery evidently was possible by following this 
coast any longer. 

At this very point, however, a discovery was made 
which surprised our explorers considerably for the 
moment, and which, as they afterwards found, proved 
to be one of supreme importance. 

Just as they rounded the point to their left, they 
caught sight of a black mountain, rising almost directly 
out of the sea to a height of probably three thousand 
feet. It was a volcano in full activity, for its summit 
was belching forth vast clouds of dark smoke occasion- 
.illy livid with flame. 

'^Gallia, therefore, must have a red hot interior!'* 
cried Captain Servadac, much astonished at this new 
phenomenon. 



28o TO THE SUN? 

''Why not, Captain?" asked the Count. ''Gallia 
being but a fragment of the Earth, she is just as likely 
to have carried off a portion of the Earth's central fire 
as of the Earth's atmosphere, seas and continents.'' 

"A very small portion of the continents ! " observed 
Servadac, "though, upon second thought, perhaps more 
than is enough for our present population." 

"Talking of population reminds me of our English 
friends at Gibraltar," observed the Count. "Before re- 
turning to Gourbi, which now can hardly be a day's 
sail away, what do you think of landing at the Rock 
and telling them about everything that we have since 
discovered ? " 

"What would be the use?" answered the Captain 
without the least hesitation. "Those English fellows 
would not believe us. They know very well where 
Gourbi lies, and can reach it whenever they think 
proper. They are not poor suffering creatures, des- 
titute of resources. On the contrary, they have 
enough and for long enough. Gibraltar is little 
more than three hundred miles distant from our 
island, and, once the sea is frozen, they can sled 
over to us as often as ever they please. We had 
no particular reason to be overjoyed at our recep- 
tion, and, when they pay us a visit, we shall have 
a splendid opportunity for retaliating — " 



WHA T WAS LEFT OF ITAL Y. 28 1 

'* By giving them such a welcome as to make them 
ashamed of themselves/' interrupted Timascheff. 

'* Exactly so, Count/' replied the Captain. ^^Here 
in Gallia, as in the United States of America, there is 
no such thing as a Frenchman, a Russian, an Italian, 
an Englishman — ' ' 

''There I can't agree with you. Captain!" inter- 
rupted the Count, shaking his head. ''An Englishman, 
unless caught young, is untamable. Once an English- 
man, forever an Englishman ! ' ' 

The English were therefore left to their fate for the 
present, though in any case a visit to Gibraltar just 
then was probably out of question. The cold was 
increasing so decidedly that Procopius began to be 
afraid of the vessel getting suddenly caught in the 
ice. The coal too was getting low and would soon 
give out. Gibraltar, therefore, and all further ex- 
plorations southwardly were deferred to a future and 
more favorable occasion. On the fifth of March the 
Dobryna' s head faced Gourbi, where they could easily 
arrive during the course of the day. 

"My poor Ben Zouf ! " said the Captain, with eye 
to glass, "how glad I shall be to see you! I hope 
nothing unpleasant has befallen you .during our ab- 
sence ! " 

The run, short as it was, was not to be made with- 



282 TO THE SUN? 

out an incident. The explorers were fortunate enough 
to come across a second notice from the mysterious 
astronomer who, having already calculated Gallia's 
elements, was now carefully following her course day 
by day. 

About an hour after starting, a floating object was 
signalled a mile or so on the larboard bow, and soon 
fished up. This time it was a pickle-jar, but it was 
carefully sealed as before and bore the same initials : 
P. R. 

The paper was quite uninjured and contained the 
following : 

Gallia? 

Ab sokf au I mars, dist. : 78,000,000 1. ! 

Chemin parcouru de f6v. h mars : 59,000,000 1. ! 

Va bene ! All right ! Nil desperandum ! 

Enchants ! 

( Gallia ? From the sun, on March I, distant 78 million leagues ! 
Distance travelled from February to March, 59 million leagues ! It 
goes well! All right I Never despair I Delighted!) 

''Again no address or signature!*' exclaimed the 
Captain with some impatience. '' Can it be somebody 
fooling us? '* 

''If it be,'' answered the Count, "he must be giving 
himself more trouble than the sport is worth ! He must 
be raining cases and jars into the sea. We have already 
received two ! ' ' 



WHAT WAS LEFT OF ITAL K 283 

^'But why this silly concealment of his name and 
address? Where do you think he can be concealing 
himself? " 

Natural and reasonable questions, but very difficult 
to answer. Could the writer of these singular docu- 
ments be the inhabitant of some islet spared by the 
catastrophe and missed by the Dobryna ? Could he 
be on board some vessel that could sail against wind 
and tide and disappear at pleasure, like the Flying 
Dutchman ? No one could tell. 

^' In any case," observed Procopius, ^Mf these docu- 
ments are serious, and in my opinion the figures are 
really so beyond all doubt, they give occasion for two 
important remarks. First, Gallia's velocity has dimin- 
ished twenty-three millions of leagues in one month — 
from 82 to 59. Second, Gallia's distance from the sun 
has increased in two weeks nineteen millions of leagues. 
Therefore, the greater her distance from the sun the less 
her velocity — a fact in perfect correspondence with all 
the laws of celestial mechanics. ' ' 

^^ Your inference from these observations, Procopius ? " 
asked the Count. 

'' We are following an orbit which is probably elliptic, 
but the eccentricity of which at present cannot be calcu- 
lated.'^ 

*^ Before we are done with this subject, gentlemen/ 



284 TO THE SUNt 

said the Count, ^^and while I think of it, I move we 
adopt for our planet, at least temporarily, the name 
Gallia proposed by our unknown friend, and that we 
also call the waters all around the Gallian Sea^ 

The motion was carried unanimously. 

^^I shall also make a proposition,'' said the Captain. 
'^To show a proper appreciation of our astronomer's 
pluck, and his untiring devotion to science under the 
present appalling circumstances, I move that we hence- 
forward make every effort to imitate him (applause). 
Let us begin to do so by adopting his motto as our own , 
on all occasions and under all circumstances : Nil des- 

PERANDUM ! " 

^^NiL DESPERANDUM ! " shoutcd his companions ap- 
provingly. 

'^Land to nor* -east ! " sang the watch on the fore- 
deck. 

At the same moment a voice from the mast-head cried 
out : 

" The Isle of Gourbi in sight ! " 



CHAPTER XVIIl, 

VISITORS. 

THE Dobryna had started on her exploration trip on 
the thirty- first of January, and she now returned to 
Gourbi on the fifth of March. The journey had, there- 
fore, lasted thirty-five days (it was leap year) old calen- 
dar^ or seventy days Gallian, the sun having crossed the 
Gourbi mountains seventy separate times. 

It is needless to say that the Captain experienced 
much emotion as he drew nearer and nearer to the only 
fragment of Algerian ground that had escaped destruc- 
tion. Many a time he had asked himself and his com- 
panions if they were ever to see it again. Might it not 
have sunk in the waves, like everything else on this un- 
stable surface of Gallia? And if so, what could have 
become of his faithful follower and friend, Ben Zouf ? 

Such fears had, fortunately, no foundation. There 
lay the island now before them, safe and sound as when 
they had left it. What a beautiful green did the slopes 
of its mountains present 1 And, contrasted with the 
terrible ciystal coast, how charming seemed even the 

285 



286 TO THE SUN? 

rust-Stained cliffs and the sandy shore ! But look ! 
What black cloud was that which rose and fell in turns, 
strangely, automatically as it were, immediately over the 
island ? The Captain and his companions were at first 
a little startled at the puzzling phenomei.on; but a nearer 
approach showed it to be no cloud at all. It was a vast 
throng of birds pressed closely together in the air, like 
a shoal of herrings in the water. It was soon heard to 
give forth a confused noise of discordant cries, varied 
every now and then by what sounded like the distant 
discharge of a gun. 

The Dobryna announced her approach by firing off 
her cannon, and was not long coming to anchor in the 
little harbor of the Sheliff. As the Captain and the 
Count were being rapidly rowed ashore, they caught 
sight of a man, gun in hand, rushing down the cliffs and 
jumping from rock to rock wildly towards the landing- 
place. Even the Count had no difficulty in recognizing 
Ben Zouf 

As they landed they found him standing motionless in 
the position of '^present arms!" ten or twelve yards 
distant from the water. His countenance showed an 
expression in which the most profound respect struggled 
so comically with the most exuberant joy as to be per- 
fectly irresistible. The Captain and the Count shouted 
with laughter. Ben held out pretty well for a few 



VISITORS. 287 

seconds, but no longer. Throwing aside his gun, he 
rushed up to his old master, caught his hands, shook 
them and kissed them, laughing, whining, and dancing 
around him with every demonstration of delight. 

'^ Oh, my dear Captain ! " he exclaimed at last, ^'how 
happy I am to see you back again ! I thought you 
would never return ! How miserable I have often been 
during your absence ! But it 's all right now ! Mon- 
sieur the Count too ! I am delighted to welcome him 
once more to the Island ! Everything is ready for you 
all ! How well you both look ! '* etc., etc. 

But even in the very midst of these exclamations, so 
very natural and so perfectly intelligible, the Captam 
and the Count soon began to notice others which were 
anything but either natural or intelligible. 

^^ You're both as brown as berries!" he went on. 
''The beggars! Let me only get a crack at them ! — 
Captain, you *re gone five old weeks to-day ! The 
longest five weeks I ever spent ! — The brigands ! The 
plundering robbers! You're not come an instant too 
soon, Captain ! Days and nights all the same ! The 
pirates ! The Thugs ! The Corsairs never give me a 
moment's rest ! " 

He stopped to take breath and the Captain cut in like 
lightning. 

'' What do you mean, Ben Zouf, by pirates and Thugs? 



288 TO THE SUN? 

You don't want us to believe that a band of plundering 
Arabs has invaded the island ? " 

''Arabs?" cried Ben, ''I wish they were Arabs! 
Arabs can be put an end to ! Kill an Arab — good-by ! 
he gives you no more trouble. But these bandits ! — 
the more you kill of them the more you bring to life ! 
Haven't I killed at least a thousand a day for the last 
two weeks? It 's all no use ! They 're more numerous 
than ever ! Captain, if you don't contrive some plan to 
exterminate the whole tribe, you '11 not be left a grain 
of corn on your island ! Kabyles are bad enough, Cap- 
tain, but they are nothing in comparison with these 
thieving birds ! We had a splendid harvest, but if some- 
thing is not done to kill off these depredators pretty 
soon we shall have all to go fishing." 

The Captain now understood the singular appearance 
presented by the birds when the Dobryna was nearing 
the island. He also comprehended why they flocked in 
such enormous numbers to Gourbi. It must really be 
the only spot on all Gallia where the starving creatures 
could find fields, meadows, fresh water, corn and refuge 
in general. But, of course, if their subsistence was 
incompatible with that of the human inhabitants of 
Gourbi, something should be done to effectually oppose 
the invasion. 

He said so to Ben Zouf after learning further par- 



VISITORS, 289 

ticiilars, and dismissed the matter for the present by 
assuring him that it should have his earliest possible 
attention. 

^^All right, Captain!*' said Ben, rapidly changing 
the subject. *'How did you leave the boys in Africa? 
Jolly as ever, of course, though no doubt a little dumb- 
founded at the look of things ? ' ' 

''The boys in Africa," said the Captain gravely, 
''are still in Africa." 

"Good! Captain. Glad to hear it. Long live the 
boys!" 
"Only Africa, Ben Zouf, is no longer in existence." 
"No Africa any more. Captain? You're joking, 
aren't you?" said Ben, with a face as long as his 
arm. 

" No Africa any more, Ben Zouf." 
"But France, Captain! France is on hand, as 
usual?" he asked in a voice tinged with misgiving. 
"Ah! France, France — is far, far away, Ben Zouf." 
" And Mont — Mont — Montmartre, Captain ? ' ' 
The poor fellow could hardly pronounce the words. 
It was the cry of the heart forcing itself through the 
lips. The Captain at first could give no answer. In 
fact, he did not know what to say. At last he tried 
to explain to Ben in a few words what appeared to 
have really taken place. How a fragment of the 



290 TO THE SUN? 

Earth had been exploded into the sky, carrying with 
it little bits of Africa and of Europe, but much of 
the Mediterranean. How Montmartre, and with Mont- 
martre Paris, and with Paris all France, and with 
France all Europe, and with Europe the whole Earth, 
were now about two hundred millions of miles distant 
from their Island of Gourbi. Consequently all hope 
of ever seeing Montmartre again had better be given 
up, as most unlikely to be ever realized. 

Ben's face had at first borne a look of extreme de- 
jection. But as he listened to the Captain's explana- 
tion of matters so difficult of comprehension, it was 
easy to see that he grew only more puzzled and per- 
plexed. The astounding intelligence was evidently 
too much for his matter-of-fact head. By degrees, 
however, his look of bewilderment wore away and 
began to give place to an expression of amused incre- 
dulity. He was even smiling gayly when the Captain 
had got through, and it was almost with a laugh that 
he exclaimed with a knowing shrug of the shoulders : 

^^All right. Captain! Of course, one has a per- 
fect right to believe these things, if one feels like it ! 
But I should rather be excused ! That 's not the kind 
of a fellow Laurence, commonly called Ben Zouf, con- 
siders himself to be. That astronomer is probably an 
escaped lunatic! The Earth exploded like an old 



VISITORS, 291 

steam-boiler, and we *re riding about on one of the 
fragments ! Shot up like a plug out of a pop-gun ! 
Excuse me. Captain ! I'm not learned man enough 
to swallow any such ideas ! Too thin ! as the boys 
used to say. Yes, Captain, with the greatest respect 
for your superior knowledge, learning and information, 
I must say the story is either too thin or my skull a 
great deal too thick ! " 

The Captain endeavored to make his language more 
comprehensible, but Ben would not listen. 

^^No, no. Captain," he would exclaim with a pleasant 
smile and touching his cap every moment with the back 
of his hand, ^^ learned men, book men, like the Count 
and yourself and the astronomer, may believe such 
things or think they do. But for Montmartre hard- 
headed fellows like Ben Zouf, these stories are too thin ! 
I can't agree with you, Captain, but I 'm sure poor 
old France is all right, and especially Montmartre ! " 

^^Very well, Ben Zouf," answered the Captain, in 
perfect good-humor. ^^Have it all your own way! 
Believe what you please and disbelieve what you please. 
Hope on, hope ever! Never despair! — the motto, 
by the by, of no less than the astronomer himself, 
against whom you appear to be unreasonably prejudiced. 
But enough of this for the present. The first thing to 
be done is to prepare the Isle of Gourbi for a place of 



292 TO THE SUNt 

residence. I think we shall be likely to make a good 
long stay here. ' * 

Procopius, little Nina and her goat Marzy now joined 
the group, and all started together for the gourbi. 
They soon arrived there, Ben carrying Nina, the child 
taking a great liking to him at once and calling him 
her friend Zuffo. Everything was in perfect order, 
the gourbi being completely restored and the old 
guard-house made very comfortable. Zephyr and Ga- 
lette, in splendid condition, neighed aloud and com- 
menced capering to testify their joy at the Captain's 
return. Poultry in immense numbers and of all kinds 
came running up to Ben with loud cries, demanding 
their regular meal. Great stacks of corn and ricks 
of hay, well protected against sun, rain, and birds, 
lay in the immediate neighborhood, and more were 
seen in the adjoining plains. In short, the gourbi, 
instead of being as formerly a mere military outpost 
for two men, had now, thanks to Ben's incessant in- 
dustry, attained the appearance of being the abode 
of a highly intelligent, provident, successful, and even 
wealthy farmer. How Ben managed to bring about 
these wonderful results will shortly appear. 

The proper compliments had been paid to Ben, who, 
however, was so very busy welcoming his guests that 
he hardly appeared to hear them ; the sumptuous din- 



VISITORS, 293 

ner, which he took an incredibly short time to pre- 
pare, had been disposed of with a good deal of cheer- 
fulness and even fun, considering the state in which 
our adventurers now found themselves; Nina and 
Marzy had been put away in a little recess hastilv 
arranged by Ben, and were now fast asleep; even 
Ben himself, the indefatigable, had showed signs of fa- 
tigue and had either gone out or retired for the night 
after preparing three comfortable beds for the gen- 
tlemen. 

But our friends did not feel sleepy. Sipping their 
wine and smoking their cigars they sat far into the 
night, or at least the darkness, discussing the situa- 
tion and revolving over plans for the future. 

What was the first thing to be done ? Evidently to 
make instant provision for every immediate and press- 
ing danger. First of all, how to prepare for the ter- 
rible cold that Gallia was certain to encounter in a 
few days and which was to last for a time nobody 
knew how long? Fuel, water, and food were evi- 
dently the three chief and indispensable requisites. 
Now, fuel was by no means abundant. Coal there 
was none. Trees were comparatively few, and even 
of them the growth would be checked if not killed 
daring the long cold period. What was to be done 
to meet this fearful eventuality? Some expedient 



294 TO THE SUNT 

should be devised, and that too with the briefest 
possible delay. 

The other two requisites of life, water and food, were 
abundant enough. Wells and springs were numerous, 
and the great tanks were full. Besides, in a short time, 
the Gallian Sea would freeze, and the ice would fur- 
nish a sufficiency of water comparatively fresh, sea ice, as 
is well known, containing very little salt. As for food, 
properly so-called, that is the nitrogenized substance 
indispensable to the nourishment of man, there was 
a plentiful supply of it, and for a long time. In the 
first place, the cereals, in spite of the birds, were still 
in the greatest abundance ; and in the second, the 
flocks and herds of domestic animals scattered over 
the island were very numerous and in a most flourish- 
ing condition. It was not forgotten, of course, that 
during the great cold period the soil would remain 
unproductive and that even forage for the animals could 
not be renewed. Too many of these, therefore, could 
not be retained. How many were too many? An 
exact answer to this question, though depending evi- 
dently on the length of the hibernation — a problem 
deferred for the present — did not present any great 
difficulty. The real trouble was the fuel question, 
and with a promise to give it careful consideration, 
the friends at last retired for the night. 



VISITORS. 295 

Next morning, after a copious breakfast, the council 
of war was resumed. What was the actual population of 
Gallia, as far as known? The Captain pulled out his 
memorandum-book, and began jotting down the items. 
Leaving out for the present the thirteen Englishmen of 
Gibraltar, there were eight Russians, two Frenchmen, 
and the little Italian girl — total, eleven. 

^'That makes altogether a population of eleven souls/' 
said the Captain, ^^ depending on Gourbi for support." 

'^ Beg pardon. Captain," suddenly interrupted Ben, 
who was busy clearing off the table; ^^ sorry to contra- 
dict you. Captain; but your total is not quite right." 

^' What do you mean, Ben Zouf ? " 

*^I mean that, instead of eleven, there are twenty- 
three of us." 

''On this island?" 

'' Yes, Captain; on this island." 

''Won't you have the kindness to explain yourself, 
Ben Zouf?" cried the Captain impatiently, whilst the 
Count and Procopius looked from one to the other with 
glances of the greatest surprise. 

"The reason I did not mention it sooner, gentle- 
men," said Ben deprecatingly, "was simply because I 
wanted you all to get a little rest after your long jour- 
ney. During your absence. Captain, I have had some 
visitors." 



296 TO THE SUNf 

'^Visitors!'' 

'^ Certainly visitors, and helpers too. Yesterday you 
remarked the great quantity of corn stacked and of hay 
saved around here. Of course^ you could not have 
imagined that my two arms alone had made such a 
harvest. ' * 

^^Of course not!*' said the Captain. ^'I could not 
understand it myself, but I was fully intended to ask all 
about it at the first opportunity.'* 

'^We are all very much surprised indeed," said the 
Russians. 

*^ Suppose we start now, gentlemen, to see our 
visitors," said Ben. ^^You will not have far to go — 
hardly a mile and a half — but be sure to bring your 
guns along." 

'' To defend ourselves ? " asked the Captain. 

'^ Yes," said Ben, ^'but only against the birds." 

Not knowing what to make of all this, the Captain 
and his companions followed Ben, leaving Nina playing 
with her goat at the gourbi, 

'' Now, gentlemen, use your guns as soon as you 
please," cried Ben, pointing to the birds that were 
soon fluttering in thousands overhead, or were spread 
in countless numbers on the corn-fields. They were of 
all kinds and sizes, but chiefly wild ducks, snipes, swal- 
lows, crows, ravens, gulls, quails, partridges, wood 



VISITORS. 297 

cocks, etc., etc., many of them mere nuisances, but 
many more furnishing delicate and wholesome food. 
For an hour or so our friends turned themselves into 
merciless sportsmen. But it was not exactly sport — it 
was a war of extermination waged against a horde of 
plundering invaders. 

When Ben considered they had done sufficient execu- 
tion for the present, he quitted the sea-shore and led his 
party obliquely across the plain to the south-east. In 
less than ten minutes, thanks to diminished gravity, the 
Captain and his companions found themselves near a 
dense grove of sycamore and eucalyptus trees pictu- 
resquely climbing a hill of moderate elevation. Here 
Ben stopped and looked around in all directions. 

He was fully twenty yards ahead, but his companions 
could easily hear him exclaiming, in no measured terms : 
'' Oh, the drones ! the slugs ! the lazy thieves ! '* 

^' Birds again, Ben Zouf?'* asked the Captain. 
^^ Shall we fire?'' 

'^No, Captain,'* answered Ben, pointing to a lot of 
rakes, reaping-hooks, scythes, and other agricultural im- 
plements thrown carelessly here and there all around, 
^' not birds this time ! Though I should not be sorry to 
see you take a pop at the lazy rascals that I can never 
keep at their work ! Just hear how the rogues enjoy 
themselves while they think I am talking to you at the 
gourbi !^^ 



298 TO THE SUN? 

The Captain and his companions were now more 
mystified than ever. 

^^ Ben Zouf ! '' cried Servadac, sharply ; ^' I 'm tempted 
to take a pop at you first, if you don't explain pretty 
quickly the meaning of all this." 

*^ Only keep quiet a little while, Captain," observed 
Ben, ^^ and you'll soon understand it without further 
explanation. Listen, gentlemen. I thought I should 
catch them at it ! " 

The Captain and his companions, obeying orders, 
listened with some attention ; and they could soon dis- 
tinguish the mingled sounds of a voice singing, a guitar 
thrumming, and castanets rattling, all in perfect tune 
and harmony^ 

'' Spaniards ! ^' exclaimed the Captain, hardly able to 
credit his ears. 

'^Spaniards! who else?" said Ben. ^^ These fellows 
would think nothing of castanetting at the cannon's 
mouth ! " 

^^But, Ben Zouf, won't you—" 

^* Listen again, Captain and gentlemen," interrupted 
Ben. ^^ That's Methuselah!" 

A harsh, grating voice was now heard, talking very 
angrily, if not actually scolding and cursing. But it 
was soon drowned in shouts of derisive laughter. 

Our party had by this time approached near enough 



VISITORS, 299 

to catch the Spanish words, which the Captain and the 
Russians understood very well. 

The song, with guitar and Castanet accompaniment, 
was immediately resumed : 

" Tu sandunga, un cigarro 
Y una cafia de Jerez, 
Mi jamelgo y un trabuco, 
Que mas gloria puede haver ? " 

(Thy beauty, a cigar, a glass of sherry, my horse, and a blunder- 
buss — what greater glory can be found ?) 

'^ Mi dinero ! mi dinero ! " cried the grating voice. 
''No quereis pagarmi lo que debeis honradamente, 
majos miserables?" (My money, my money! Won't 
you pay your honest debts, you miserable pretenders ?) 

Once more the song : 

" Para Alcarrazas, La Chiclana, 
Para trigo, Trebujena, 
Para ninas muy bonitas 
San Lucar de Barrameda.'' 

(For earthen pitchers Chiclana is famous ; for wheat, Trebujena ; 
but for very pretty girls, San Lucar de Barrameda.) 

'' Si ! si 1 mi pagareis mi deuda, ladrones ! '* the rasp- 
ing voice was heard again exclaiming, in spite of song, 
guitar and castanets; ''milo pagareis, por el padre 
Abrahan ! ' ' (Yes, you shall pay me, you bandits ! You 
shall, s' help me Father Abraham !) 



300 TO THE SUNT 

'^ A Jew, by all that 's wonderful ! '* cried Servadac. 

^' Better than that, Captain, a Dutch Jew," said Ben, 
/ who, quite as much as his master at that time, detested 
everything German. 

They were making for an entrance through the under- 
wood into the open part of the grove, when the sight 
of a strange spectacle suddenly stopped them. 

The Spaniards began to dance their national fandango, 
but, Gallia not being Spain, every dancer rose in the air 
to a height of forty or fifty feet. Nothing could be 
more comical than the sight of the Spaniards bobbing 
up and down, as they appeared and disappeared behind 
the tops of the highest trees. Shouts, claps, and en- 
couraging cries of ^^ Ole salero!*' greeted every new 
success. But a new feature in the dance soon raised the 
applause to absolute frenzy. Four muscular Spaniards, 
holding an old man by the hands in spite of himself, 
were seen to rise and fall in the air, swinging half round, 
back again, and performing pirouettes, shuffles, and all 
kinds of fancy steps. Laughing, yelling, and screaming 
with delight, they would even throw the old man from 
one to the other, and catch him before he touched the 
ground. The most accomplished Japanese athletes never 
did anything so wonderful. They seemed to move about 
in the air more easily and gracefully than swimmers in 
enchanted waters. But it was the vicious resistance and 



VISITORS. 301 

t he comical terror of the old man that created the great- 
est fun. The louder he shrieked, and cursed, and swore, 
and appealed to his Father Abraham, the louder and 
more joyous was the laughing chorus of his tormentors. 
The more wildly he kicked and struggled, the more 
clamorously twanged the guitar, and the more dinningly 
rattled the castanets. 

The Captain and his companions, desiring to put an 
end to this ridiculous scene, hastily entered the open- 
ing. In the cleared part of the grove they saw the 
musician, the castanet player and five other Spaniards 
in different attitudes of sup^-eme enjoyment, as, roar- 
ing with laughter, they rapturously applauded the dan- 
cers. 

At the instant, however, that they caught sight of the 
strangers, they became mute as statues; the music 
ceased at once ; and the dancers, handling their victim 
a little less roughly, landed him quietly on his feet, but 
torn, bruised, perspiring and hardly able to catch his 
breath. But no sooner did he see the Captain than he 
ran towards him eagerly and, probably recognizing him 
by his military dress, cried out in good French but with 
a strong German accent : 

'^Oh! Monsieur Governor General! These rogues 
have stolen my property, they have, s' help me Fathei 
Abraham ! But you'll do me justice, won't you? " 



302 TO THE SUNf 

Before replying, the Captain asked Ben in a low voice 

what was the meaning of this title? 

*^ It 's all right, Captain ! '* whispered Ben ; *' you 're 
our Governor General. I have made all the arrange- 
ments." 

The Jew, having lodged his complaint, took off his 
old cap, bent his head, crossed his arms, and waited 
patiently for the Governor General's decision. 

In the meantime the Captain had taken a good look 
at him, and soon knew his man. 

About fifty years of age, but looking old enough to 
be sixty, he was small of stature and unhealthy of look. 
Eyes that glittered with cunning, nose sharp and 
hooked, stubbly beard of a dirty yellow, matted hair, 
feet clumsy and shambling, hands all fingers, like an 
eagle's talons — all pointed him out as one of a class 
well known in every quarter of Europe — the Dutch 
Jew. He was moreover one of the worst of the type — 
a usurer, supple of backbone, cold of heart, voluble of 
tongue, the gold-clipper, the skinflint, the lickpenny, 
the muckworm in all its ugly deformity. He scented 
money as unerringly as a hound scents blood, and 
heaven or earth could not throw him off the track. A 
veritable Shylock, he would take nothing less than his 
sixteen ounces of flesh. But his worst trait was h3rpoc- 
risy. Though of Jewish parentage and continually in- 




DUTCH ISAAC. 



VISITORS. 303 

yoking Father Abraham, he could be a Turk with the 
Turks, and even a Chinaman with the Chinese if there 
was any money in it, 

A few questions soon put the Captain in possession 
of his main story. His name was Isaac Hakhabut \ his 
birthplace, Cologne; his profession, coast-trader on the 
Mediterranean. In his tartan of one or two hundred 
tons burden, a regular floating country grocery store, he 
had everything for sale, from a box of matches for a 
penny to a roll of Lyons silk at ten dollars a yard. In 
fact this tartan, the Hans a, was his only place of abode. 
Without wife or children, it amply supplied all his 
wants. A crew of four, a captain and three deck hands, 
easily managed to take good care of the light vessel on 
its regular rounds to Algeria, Tunis, Turkey, Greece 
and the Levantine cities. Well supplied with coffee, 
sugar, rice, tobacco, textile fabrics, gunpowder, etc., 
Isaac sometimes sold, sometimes exchanged, sometimes 
bought, but always made money. The Hansa hap- 
pened to be at Ceuta, on the African coast opposite 
Gibraltar, at the moment of the catastrophe. The four 
men composing the crew spent the night on shore, and 
of course disappeared with all the rest. But the ex- 
treme northern point of Ceuta had been spared — the 
reader may kindly remember that it had been visited by 
the two English officers — and with it eleven Spaniards, 



304 TO THE SUNf 

who never seemed to have an exact idea of what was 
taking place around them. 

These jovial Andalusian peasants, loving fun as much 
as they hated work, extremely obliging and good-na- 
tured, and as slow to give an insult as they were quick 
to avenge it, had formed a kind of club or trades'- 
union for self-defence, putting at its head one of them- 
selves, Negrete by name, who knew a little more than 
the others because he had run around a little more. 
When they found themselves that memorable morning 
alone and abandoned on the rocks of Ceuta, their 
embarrassment and terror were equally great. At 
first, they did not know what in the world to do. 
But the sight of the Hansa lying a short distance 
from the shore soon inspired them with the idea of 
seizing it, and sailing back in it to Spain. One part 
of the idea was put into instant execution — they were 
not the kind of men who upon all occasions never 
forget the difference between -meum and tiium. But 
the second part of the idea hung fire — there was 
not a sailor among them. 

It was while they were still in a state of great per- 
plexity as to what was the best course to pursue in 
these difficult circumstances that the two English 
officers arrived and held a secret conference with 
Negrete. What took place on this occasion Isaac 



VISITORS. 305 

could not tell. All he knew was that, as soon as 
the Englishmen had taken their departure, Negrete 
compelled him, Isaac, to set sail for the nearest point 
of the African shore. This lie had done, unwillingly 
of course, but partly because he could not help it 
and partly because the Spaniards had faithfully prom- 
ised to pay him the full amount of the passage-money. 
They started on February the third and, the wind being 
west, they had found handling the sails and steering 
to be the easiest work in the world. The vessel took 
them of her own accord and without their ever know- 
ing anything about it, to the only point on the whole 
globe where they could find refuge. 

Here Isaac's testimony coming to an end, Ben Zouf 
stepped forward to complete the story. 

He began by saying how astonished he had been one 
fine morning at seeing a ship, not the Dobryna, ap- 
proaching the island in full sail and coming to an- 
chorage in the port of the Sheliff. Boarding it imme- 
diately, he soon learned the circumstances of the case 
from Dutch Isaac (Isaco el Tudesco), as the others 
called him. The Spaniards he had found very jolly, 
but quite amenable, and the cargo entirely uninjured. 
This cargo, Ben volunteered his opinion, should be 
seized at once for the common stock, whether the 
Jew was willing or not to come to terms. Suitable 



306 TO THE SUN? 

terms, of course, might be offered to him, for the 

fulfilment of which he should take his chances; at 
present one thing was certain — the Jew could never 
expect to sell these goods either at a profit or other- 
wise. As to the trouble regarding the passage-money, 
Ben went on to say, he had not been able to make the 
parties come to anything like a settlement — Isaac de- 
manding the full price, no abatement, and the Spaniards 
positively refusing to pay him a single sou. After 
several days wasted in listening to arguments on each 
side, he had determined to give himself no further 
trouble in the matter and told them to leave it all 
in the hands of his Excellency the Governor General, 
at that time occupied in going his ^^ Rounds of In- 
spection." 

During the course of Ben's narrative, the Captain 
could not help exchanging an occasional smile with 
the Count and Procopius, at his Orderly's readiness in 
comprehending the claims of the emergency, and at 
the official style and dignity of his language. 

When he had concluded, his Excellency the Governor 
General thanked him gravely for his presence of mind,, 
ability, and general energy, in a responsible position ; 
then, turning to Isaac, he dismissed him with a few quiet 
words, promising that his case would be immediately 
looked into, and justice done to everybody. 



VISITORS. 30; 

By this time the Spaniards were thoroughly tired of 
standing around and listening to a long story, of which 
they did not understand a syllable. Negrete, therefore, 
whispered Ben, that they were all desirous to return to 
their work with his Excellency's permission. This being 
readily granted, the Spaniards, nine full-grown stalwart 
men and one young boy named Pablo, gave three 
rousing cheers, by way of welcome to their Governor 
General, and quietly returned to their work in the fields 
outside the clearing. Isaac also retired, mumbling 
blessings on his Excellency and protesting that he was 
a poor old man, not worth a single centavo, ^^s'help 
him Father Abraham ! ' ' 

'^ How can that old miser expect to be paid? '' asked 
the Count, some hours afterwards, when all were quietly 
strolling back to the goiirbi. ^^ These poor Spaniards 
can have no money." 

*^Beg pardon. Count TimaschefF," ansv/ered Ben, 
''these Spaniards have plenty of money." 

''Spaniards of their class with money!" observed 
the Count. "Unless you know it for a certainty, I 
should say it was very unlikely." 

" I do know it. Count, for a perfect certainty," said 
Ben, respectfully. "I have seen it — plenty of English 
sovereigns. I know them well ! ' ' 

"Ah!" exclaimed Servadac, suddenly recalling the 



308 TO THE SUN? 

visit made to Ceuta by the English officers. ^^ Well — 
but no matter just now — we shall settle this question 
hereafter. But, Count, changing the subject, our Gal- 
lian jDopulation is improving in variety, as well as in 
number. We can boast of a good many specimens of 
the nationalities of old Europe." 

^*Yes," answered the Count, ^^our fragment of the 
old world can show natives of France, of Russia, of 
Italy, of Spain, of England, of — " 

^'Of Germany too," added Procopius, seeing the 
Count hesitate. 

'^ Well, yes, of Germany too," continued the Count, 
^^ though I hardly think. Captain, that the great German 
nation is well represented by Dutch Isaac." 

^^I do!" answered the Captain, angrily flushing up. 
*^I think grasping, greedy, heartless, treacherous, lying 
Dutch Isaac is the best possible representative of the 
modern German Empire ! " 

The Count, seeing the dangerous ground he had trod- 
den upon, hastily turned the conversation. 

'^ Let us go look at the Hans a .^ " he exclaimed, sud- 
denly. 

His proposition met with a ready response. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 

I^HE Count's sudden thought was a most happy one. 
They had not yet seen Isaac's vessel; it lay in a 
little creek north of the island, and the Dobry?ia had 
arrived by the south. 

On their way they quietly discussed the situation in 
all its aspects. They had now a pretty good idea of 
how things actually were. Of the old world there 
remained but five points : Gourbi, a portion of Algeria; 
Gibraltar, in possession of the British; Ceuta, aban- 
doned by the Spaniards ; Maddalena, where Nina had 
been found; and St. Louis's tomb, on the shores of 
Tunis. All around these points extended the Gallian 
Sea, comprising about half the old Mediterranean and 
completely encircled by a crystal coast of comxposition 
and origin alike unknown. 

Of these live points only two were inhabited : the 
Rock of Gibraltar, where the thirteen Englishmen 
seemed to have provisions in abundance for many years 
to come; and the fertile Isle of Gourbi, containing at 

309 



3IO TO THE SUNt 

present a population of twenty- two. Likely enough 
also, another survivor of the old world still existed on 
some unknown island — the mysterious astronomer who 
had sent the strange documents. Total : thirty-six in 
habitants in the new asteroid. 

In case the whole thirty-six should be collected 
together at some future period on the Isle of Gourbi, 
would its nine hundred acres of good soil, at present 
under cultivation, well managed and well tilled, be 
sufficient for their support ? The answer was still what 
it so far had been. It depended altogether on the 
length of time elapsing until her soil had recovered its 
reproductive power; that is, until the period when 
Gallia, once more free from the colds of starry space, 
would receive heat enough from the sun to start anew 
her vegetative capacity in full vigor. When this ap- 
proach to the centre of light and heat might be expected 
still depended on two problems extremely difficult of 
solution: (i) Did Gallia follow an orbit certain to bring 
her back to the sun — that is, an elliptic curve ? (2) If 
so, what was the value of this curve's eccentricity? 
These problems being for the present totally beyond the 
capacity of the Gallians, no time should evidently be 
wasted in considering them. Better do what could be 
done, which was, first of all, to take an inventory of 
the actual state of their provisions. The sugar, wine, 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 3II 

brandy, flour, preserved meats, etc., at present on board 
the Dobryna, and which the Count surrendered at once 
and unconditionally as his contribution towards the 
common stock, might possibly last two months. The 
Hans a' s cargo, still untouched and which Isaac could 
be compelled in case of necessity to hand over for gen- 
eral consumption, was quite sufficient to last for twelve 
or fifteen months. Finally, the vegetable productions 
and the animals of the island were abundant enough, 
under an economical management, to assure the popula- 
tion plenty of food for at least six or seven years. 

In the midst of the conversation, another idea sud- 
denly struck the Count. 

''By the by. Captain, '* said he, ''I just remember 
that you are looked upon by our population as Governor 
of the island. I sincerely hope you will not think of 
declining the position. Every reunion of humanity, 
however small, requires a head. You are just the man 
for the position. You are French, and the island is 
yours since it is all that remains of a French colony. 
As long as we are here, I and my people shall always 
consider it both as a pleasure and a duty to recognize 
you as Commander-in-chief." 

''Count Timascheff and Lieutenant Procopius," said 
Servadac., "I have been already thinking seriously over 
this matter, and I can say without hesitation that I 



^ 



312 TO THE SUNf 

accept at once the position with all its responsibility. 
Without vanity I can promise that we shall always have 
a good understanding with each other, and that I shall 
never attempt any measure that is not strictly for the 
general good. We are all, it is true, in a situation of 
extreme difficulty and of a most marvellous nature, but 
it seems to me that the worst is already passed. What 
we have now to do, if it can be done, is to keep our- 
selves alive till the period comes, if it ever comes, when 
we shall once more have an opportunity of beholding 
the familiar aspect of old Mother Earth, from whom we 
have been so suddenly and strangely separated. In 
every attempt of mine for this purpose I must rely on 
your cordial co-operation, and my experience so far, dear 
friends, has been of a nature to convince me that no co- 
operation could be more reliable, earnest, or capable.'' 

This little speech, an unusually long one for the 
Captain, was spoken v/ith a hesitancy and diffidence 
that showed decided emotion. At its conclusion he 
extended his hands warmly to the Count and Pro- 
copius, who pressed them with much earnestness and 
even affection. All three kept their hands united for 
a few seconds, as if silently registering a solemn com- 
pact for life and death. 

This affair settled all resumed their walk in the di- 
rection of the Hansa, 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 313 

''I have been debating with myself for some time/' 
said the Captain, taking up the conversation, '^whether 
we ought to acquaint our friends the Spaniards with the 
true situation of affairs.'* 

^^I hope, Governor, you won't do anything of the 
kind ! ' ' quickly answered Ben Zouf, who, fully appreci- 
ating his own difficulty in realizing how matters stood, 
considered every attempt at explaining such things to 
ignorant Spaniards as mere waste of words. ^^They 
could never understand you, Governor, and, if they did, 
so much the worse ! They would abandon themselves 
at once to despair, and we should never be able to get 
a stroke of work out of them ! ' ' 

''Yes," said Procopius, ''these poor peasants are 
probably so ignorant that your explanation would be 
either entirely thrown away on them or so misappre- 
hended that it would do more harm than good." 

"In my opinion. Lieutenant," said the Captain, "it 
would make very little difference to them whether they 
understood me or not. From what I know of Span- 
iards, they are not the kind of people that surrender 
themselves lightly to despair. Quite the contrary ! 
Give a Spaniard his guitar, a pair of castanets, and 
room enough to dance his fandango, and there is no 
happier mortal breathing. What do you think of the 
question. Count? " 



314 TO THE SUNt 

^'Tell your Spaniards the whole truth, Captain, as 
I have told it to my Russians.'* 

''You are right, Count," answered Captain Hector. 
''I think with you that we should never conceal our 
danger from those participating in it. Our Spaniards 
are not so ignorant as not to have observed the new 
and obvious modifications of physical phenomena, such 
as the shortening of the days, the new path of the sun, 
and the diminution of gravity. Starting with this as 
a foundation, I don't think we shall have much diffi- 
culty in showing them that we are no longer on the 
Earth, but on a small fragment of it, called Gallia, 
which was suddenly shot into space little more than 
two months ago." 

Ben had the good sense not to say another word 
on the subject, but he mentally promised himself 
some good sport at the sight of ''Dutch Isaac's" 
long face on learning that he was now many millions 
of miles away from the Earth, where he had, no doubt, 
left many a debtor behind him. He chuckled audibly 
at the idea, and almost rubbed the skin off his hands 
with delight as, looking over his shoulder, he saw 
the Jew, grumbling and growling to himself as he 
stealthily followed the party at a distance of forty 
or fifty paces. 

It must be acknowledged that Ben had taken a very 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 315 

great dislike to this poor descendant of Abraham, and 
he did not even attempt to conceal it. German, Jew- 
ish (in the objectionable sense of the term), miserly, 
cowardly, sneaky, mean, hard-hearted, Isaac did not 
possess in Ben's eyes a single quality entitling him 
to the slightest regard beyond the ordinary rights of 
humanity. Often kind and even brotherly to some 
poor Spaniard that would lose his spirits now and then, 
Ben was never kind or even civil to Isaac, who was 
always in the lowest spirits possible. But, strange to 
say, the Jew seemed to have conceived a special liking 
for Ben. He always had a comparatively pleasant word 
for him, appeared to take particular pleasure in his 
company, and never failed to treat him with the greatest 
attention and respect. All this, however, was com- 
pletely lost on Ben. He never called the old man 
by his right name. To his simplest question he would 
never return a serious answer. His most innocent ob- 
servation would always draw forth some sarcastic re- 
ply, the wit of which must have hugely pleased Ben 
himself, for he always greeted it with a noisy laugh. 

^^The new days are only half as long as the old, 
Signor Ben Zhouf ! ' ' Isaac would say, trying to draw 
Ben into conversation. 

^^ That '11 make you at least two hundred years old 
when you kick the bucket, Jeremiah!" Ben w^ould 
answer with a merry giggle. 



3l6 TO THE SUNf 

^'Ah, Signer Ben Zhpuf! the weight of so many 
years — " 

^^ Can't ever be a heavy burden, Judas! The dimi- 
nution of gravity has fixed all that ! ** Another peal. 

^^And the moon too, Signor Ben! The moon gone 
away ! ' ' 

^* Why are you so alarmed about the moon? Judas, 
you surely can't have lent money on her!'' A new 
roar. 

'^ Ah ! Signor Zhouf ! You laugh much ! You be a 
very merry gentleman ! But the sun rising in the 
west—" 

''The sun likes a change in his old days, Potiphar. 
Profit by his example ! ' ' 

''You are a very nice gentleman indeed, Signor Ben 
Zhouf I But I comprehend not — " 

"Not comprehend, Noah I Well for you the Gov- 
ernor General is not listening ! Comprehend or die ! 
is his motto." 

"The Governor General is also a very nice gentle- 
man, Signor Ben Zhouf! He will not pillage ray prop- 
erties ! ' ' 

' ' Pillage your property, Cain ! Not he ! He would 
be satisfied with confiscating it ! " 

Here Ben would get tired of laughing at his own wit, 
and, suddenly running oif on pretence of some business. 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER, 317 

leave Isaac taking what consolation he could out of what 
he had learned, and trying to decide as to whether he 
desired the Governor's arrival or not. 

In the meantime the Captain and his companions had 
reached the shore, and were inspecting the Hansa, Her 
dangerous situation instantly struck them. She was 
moored in a little creek so utterly unprotected on one 
side that even a tolerably brisk gale from the north-west 
would inevitably dash her to pieces on the rocks. Here, 
therefore, she should not be allowed to remain a moment 
longer than was necessary for making a hasty inventory 
of her contents. This inventory the Captain and Proco- 
pius undertook to make in an hour or so, and in the 
meantime the Count and Ben Zouf, returning to the 
Spaniards, could explain to them the necessity of as- 
sembling as soon as possible at the gourbi. 

The Hansa, interiorly as well as exteriorly, was in 
perfect order. A glance was enough to show that. 
Descending into the hold and comparing what they saw 
there with Isaac's papers, which Ben had surrendered 
with all other important documents very ceremoniously 
into the Captain's hands, they readily discovered that 
the cargo had not suffered the slightest injury. Sugar- 
loaves by hundreds, chests of tea, bags ' of coffee, hogs- 
heads of tobacco, pipes of brandy, casks of wine, kegs 
of beer, barrels of dried fish, bales of cotton, woollen, 



3l8 TO THE SUNt 

and silken goods, boxes of shoes for all feet and hats 
for all heads, agricultural and domestic utensils, pottery 
and china ware, writing and letter paper, ink, matches, 
salt, pepper and allspice, Holland cheese, almanacs, 
cheap novels, thread, needles, soap, candles, etc. — • 
the whole cargo was probably worth from twenty-five 
to thirty thousand dollars. It had been renewed at 
Marseilles only a few weeks prior to the catastrophe, 
with the intention of exchanging it for good hard gold 
at almost every point on the African coast between 
Ceuta and Tripoli. 

^^ A splendid cargo!'' said Captain Hector, hastily 
checking off the items. 

'^ A perfect mine ! *' said Procopius. '^ Of course you 
will make a requisition — ' ' 

*'Not exactly, Lieutenant," said the Captain. ^^The 
owner, though a German, will not be treated in the 
German style. He must be paid for his goods. Only, 
as soon as he finds himself in a new world and very 
unlikely ever to see the old one again, he will probably 
be willing to part with them at a reasonable price.'* 

^^ Perhaps he may. Captain, ' V said Procopius doubt- 
ingly. ^^But whether he w^ll or not," he continued, 
^'one thing is certain — the Hans a should not be left 
here an hour longer. Not to talk of a storm which may 
spring up any moment, she could never resist the pres- 




THE EXPLANATION. 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 319 

sure of the ice, and the sea may be frozen solid within 
twenty- four hours." 

''All right, Lieutenant. Order your crew to take her 
to the port of the Sheliff as soon as you please." 

'' It shall be done to-morrow, Captain, the first thing. " 
An hour afterwards they found the rest of the inhabi- 
tants of the island assembled in the large room of the 
old guard-house. One of the Spaniards, the Captain 
was delighted to obser\^e, the boy called Pablo, a very 
lively little fellow, was- already on the best terms with 
Nina, who seemed quite rejoiced at having a suitable 
companion. 

The instant the Captain appeared, the Spaniards 
ceased their merry chattering and at once assumed 
every appearance of respectful attention. The Captain 
began at once. In a few clear sentences, Spanish of 
course, he told them that they and he and all were just 
then in a very serious situation, which required all their 
courage, devotion, industry, and obedience. These he 
asked of them, and these he was confident that he 
should obtain. 

The Spaniards listened quietly and made no reply, 
but Negrete their ghief, speaking in their name, told the 
Governor that the gentlemen, before pledging themselves 
to anything, would first like to know at what time he 
proposed taking them back to Spain ? 



320 TO THE SUN? 

^' Take them back to Spain 1 " interrupted Isaac in a 
hot, angry tone but in very good French. ^^ The Sig- 
nor Governor General will not do anything of the kind 

until they pay their passage-money ! The buccaneers 
promised twenty reals apiece to be taken from Ceuta. 
There's ten of them — the boy Pablo was ten years old 
last month and must therefore pay full fare — that makes 
two hundred reals — a lawful debt and too much for a 
poor man to lose, s' help me Fa — ' ' 

^^Keep still, old Benjamin!" cried Ben Zouf. ^^ If 
you interrupt the Governor you shall be shot ! ' ' 

^^ Isaac," said Servadac quietly, ^'your claims will be 
investigated and, if found just, shall be paid to the last 
maravedi." 

*^ Found just ! " exclaimed Isaac. '^ S' help me Father 
Abraham, if my claim is not just nothing is just ! The 
good Governor General will see this himself and will 
make these Spanish filibusters pay me my lawful debt ! 
And if the good Russian lord will only lend me two or 
three of his sailors to take my tartan to Algeria — ' ' 

** Algeria! " roared out Ben, unable to contain him- 
self, ^^why, old Balaam, are you ignorant enough not to 
know — " 

^^Keep silent a little, Ben Zouf," interrupted the 
Captain, '^ while I tell these good people what they 
are at present profoundly ignorant of^ but what it is 
absolutely necessary that they should know." 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER, 32I 

Then resuming in Spanish : 

^'My friends/' said he, ^^ a very strange phenome- 
non, v/hich so far none of us has been able to explain, 
has separated us from Spain, from Italy, from France, 
in a word, from all Europe. Even of Africa nothing 
remains except the little island where you have found 
refuge. Of the other continents we know nothing and 
can learn nothing. In fact, we are no longer on the 
Earth at all, but probably on one of its fragments. 
This fragment is at present carrying us farther and 
farther into space, and it is now really impossible to 
say that we shall ever return to the old world again." 

Did the Spaniards understand this speech? Hardly. 
They looked at each other with faces so blank and so 
utterly void of every expression except that of bewilder- 
ment that Negrete, speaking for them all, asked the 
Governor General to have the kindness to repeat what 
he had just said. 

The Captain readily complied and, by taking very 
particular pains with his language, using for this purpose 
whatever terms, phrases and comparisons he judged to 
be most familiar to the Spaniards, he at last, perhaps, 
succeeded in making them realize their situation. They 
gathered round Negrete and at once commenced a very 
animated palaver, though it was carried on in low 
respectful tones. By degrees, the faces of most of them 



322 TO THE SUNf 

brightened; some even laughed; a few crossed them- 
selves, and looked serious ; but, in general, they seemed 
to accept the state of things with wonderful resignation 
if not with absolute indifference. So at least the Cap- 
tain was assured by Negrete when, after a few kind 
encouraging words, he broke up the meeting and sent 
the Spaniards back to their work. 

Old Isaac did not follow them. To the Captain's 
explanation he had listened with extreme attention, 
never uttering a word. But his eyes twinkled now and 
then with a gleam of malicious cunning, and his thin 
lips pressed themselves knowingly together as if to pre- 
vent a smile. When the Captain, seeing him still 
lingering behind, asked him if he still thought of tak- 
ing his vessel to Algiers, he sniggered and grinned and, 
turning to the Count, said to him in Russian, loud 
enough to be heard by the sailors : 

'^ Ne pravda-li, moy blagorodni Russki kneyas? Ego 
Prevoskhodeytelstvo General Goobernator lubeet puskat 
svoy nebolshie ostroti ! " (Is it not so, my noble 
Russian lords? His Excellency the Governor General 
likes his little joke !) 

The Count, turned on his heel, disdaining to reply. 

Isaac then, approaching the Captain and pointing 
over his shoulder with a leering expression at the retir- 
ing Spaniards, said in French : 



A STIFF-NECKED CHARACTER. 323 

^^ Such stories, Signer Governor General, may do very 
vvell for ignorant Spaniards. They 're even too good 
for such swine. But you can't expect to catch an old 
bird like me with such chaff ! ' ' 

On his way to ^h*^ door, he saw little Nina kissing hei 
hand to Pablo, and telling him to come early to-morrow. 

^^Non e vero, carina niia?" said Isaac, as he passed 
her. ^^Isaco il Tedesco e un viaggiatore troppo vecchio 
per essere burlato cosi ! " (Isn't it so, my dear? 
Dutch Isaac is too old a traveller to play any such tricks 
as these on !) 

^'That old Bedouin knows all the languages of the 
universe, I believe ! " cried Ben Zouf, sufficiently re- 
covered from his surprise at the whole scene to be at 
last able to speak. 

*'No, Ben Zouf, you're wrong," said the Captain 
quietly. ^^That old Bedouin, as you call him, knows 
but one language. The words he may change as much 
as he pleases, but his language is always the Dutch 
Isaac/'' 



CHAPTER XX. . 

THE FUEL QUESTION. 

THE first thing done next morning was the removai 
of the Hansa by Procopius and his men from its 
dangerous position on the north coast of the island to 
the port of the Sheliff. Isaac made no objection beyond 
a growl or two ; for, in the first place, the proceeding 
put his vessel in a place of safety ; and, in the second, 
it would facilitate his acquaintance with the Russian 
sailors, two or three of whom he was pretty certain to 
be able to seduce from the Count's service by the bribe 
uf higher wages. With their assistance, what was to 
prev^ent him from slipping cable some fine morning, 
himself and his Hansa, and starting for Algiers or some 
other well-known point ? 

The next item in order was immediate preparation for 
the severe winter now close at hand. The extensive 
works contemplated for that purpose the Captain con- 
fidently expected to be rendered comparatively light, 
by the great muscular force which the diminution of 
gravity would enable the laborers to develop. 

• 324 



THE FUEL QUESTION, $2$ 

The Spaniards showed themselves to be quite as active 
as the Russians in commencing operations. Up to this 
time they had slept in a kind of shanty constructed in 
the woods under the direction of Ben Zouf, but now 
the gourbi and the station-house were to be the general 
headquarters. In a short time both were put in perfect 
order for this purpose. Here all were to take their 
meals and here the Spaniards slept, but the Russians 
passed the night in the Dobryna and Isaac in the 
Hansa. 

Ships or even stone houses could, of course, be now 
no more than mere provisional habitations. Abodes of 
a very different nature would be required for protection 
against the fierce colds of interplanetary space. They 
should be warm of themselves since, for want of coal or 
other combustible, they could not possibly be heated. 
The only abodes of this kind that could offer a safe 
refuge to the Gourbians were silos ^ the Spanish name for 
underground dwellings, somewhat of the same kind as 
those used by the Samoieds and northern Siberians. 
The surface of Gallia once covered by a thick coating 
of ice and snow, both bad conductors of heat, the 
temperature of these silos might be reasonably expected 
to remain at a supportable degree of warmth. Living 
in them would be anything but comfortable or healthy ; 
perhaps it would be even unendurable; but there was 



326 TO THE SUN? 

no choice left. Silos or death were the sole alterna 
tives. 

Fortunately the Gourbians were more favorably cir- 
cumstanced than whalers or other explorers obliged 
to winter in the Arctic regions. They had at least 
the solid earth underneath tliem. They were not 
obliged to fight the icy blasts in ships or snow-huts 
on the surface of the frozen ocean, where proper pro- 
tection from extreme cold is almost impossible. By 
digging out excavations twenty or thirty yards in 
depth, they had every reason to expect to reach a 
point where, as on the old Earth, the thermometer 
never varied from year's end to year's end. 

All set to work at once in the best spirits. Shovels, 
spades, pickaxes, barrows, drills, implements of all 
kinds, as we know already, were numerous enough 
in the gourbi. Ben distributed them around; Pro- 
copius drew the plans; the Captain and the Count 
staked off the lines ; while the Russian sailors and 
the Spanish peasants seemed to vie with each other as 
to who would do the most and best work. 

All went on very well for awhile ; then a difficulty 
occurred which at once stopped the workmen and puz- 
zled the engineers. Digging, shovelling, blasting, and 
carting off, to active and healthy laborers presented 
little or no difficulty. But once arrived at an average 




DIGGING THE SILO. 



THE FUEL QUESTION. 327 

depth of eight feet below the surface, they could get 
no farther. There they found themselves endeavoring 
to penetrate a strange hard mineral substance that re- 
sisted all their eiforts, breaking even their best steel 
drills. 

This substance, the Captain, the Count, and Pro- 
copius recognized at once as the material composing 
the crystal coast and the bottom of the sea. It must 
therefore form the undercrust of all Gallia. Gun-pow- 
der had no effect on it. Even dynamite, if they had 
such a thing, would have probably failed in fracturing 
its adamantine grain. 

^^ Shall we never escape this accursed thing?" ex- 
claimed the Captain angrily. ^'How does it get here? 
As well as I can remember there was never anything 
like it in the old world ! '* 

'^ Your impatience is quite natural, my dear Captain," 
said the Count, ''but, I *m sorry to say, quite useless. 
Remember our motto : a silo or death ! There 's not an 
instant to be lost ! ' ' 

The Count was only too right, as the Captain him- 
self knew perfectly well. It was only that very morn- 
ing that he had exchanged a few calculations with 
Procopius regarding the fast diminishing temperature. 
Gallia, at the present time, could not be less than 2.150 
millions of miles distant from the sun, that is, nearly 



328 TO THE SUNT 

three times farther than the Earth ever is from the 
centre of our system. From this you can judge how 
much the light and the heat must have been dimin- 
ished. Fortunately, Gourbi lying on Gallia* s equator 
and the equator itself coinciding with the ecliptic, 
the sun was always vertical at noon and therefore im- 
parted all the light and heat possible at such a distance. 
But the distance was too great, and the thermometer 
was steadily getting lower and lower. Little Nina, 
to her great surprise and joy, had already discovered 
some ice here and there among the rocks, and the 
moment was rapidly approaching when the whole sea 
would be frozen solid. 

The temperature was now never higher than 21° Fah- 
renheit. The fresh water rills and streams over the 
country were ice-bound. A roaring fire, kept up in the 
great stove of the guard-house day and night, hardly 
made headquarters comfortable. But how would it be 
w^hen after awhile the thermometer would sink to two 
or three hundred below zero, when the mercury itself 
would freeze, and when perhaps even alcohol could not 
stand the deadly chill? Competent shelter could not 
come an instant too soon. Silos or death ! 

As to the Dobryna and the Hansa, they not only 
could not be sufficiently heated but would be even in 
great danger of being crushed to pieces by the ice- 



THE FUEL QUESTION, 329 

blocks that would be piled up all around them. What 
then was to be done ? Silos or death ! Wooden houses, 
useless. Stone houses, useless. Ships, useless. Silos or 
death ! No alternative. Every instant the moments 
became more and more valuable. The sun, already 
small enough, was growing smaller. As long as he 
was in the zenith, he certainly imparted some heat ; 
but as soon as he sank below the horizon the cold 
was already quite sharp and biting. Silos or death ! 

But where to dig the silos? The Captain and the 
Count, mounted on Zephyr and Galette, searched all 
parts of the island for some spot that could be suffi- 
ciently excavated. The horses flew as if winged, and 
the hurried exploration was soon made. But it was all 
in vain. Here, there, elsewhere, the soil was carefully 
probed. Everywhere without exception the same hard 
crystal formation was found, in some case even only 
two or three feet below the surface. Silos were im- 
possible ! 

What then should be done? Prepare for an imme- 
diate and cruel death? Not yet awhile! Not until 
the extreme moment comes 1 Fight it off as long as 
possible; then surrender with submission and resigna- 
tion. Defend the gourbi and the guard-house as care- 
fully against the cold as could be done, and hold out 
there as long as a breath could be drawn ! 



330 TO THE SUNf 

" Collect all the wood at once, dry or green, that can 
be found in the island!" was the Captain's order to 
Ben Zouf. ^^ Detail a squad of your men to cut down 
at once all the trees growing in the low lands ! Not 
an instant can be lost 1 ' ' 

'^Ay, ay, sir!" cried Ben, rapidly comprehending 
the meaning of the order and as rapidly starting off 
his men for its execution. 

All that day and the next the fuel came in abundantly. 
Great piles of fire-wood were made in the immediate 
neighborhood. Even the gourbi and the guard-house 
were covered with a coating of chopped wood five or 
six feet in thickness. Timber being a bad conductor 
of heat, this coating would afford at least temporary 
relief against the approaching deadly cold. 

Yes ! at best it would be but temporary. All this 
fuel and ten times as much would soon be exhausted. 
What then? The sure end, if some better expedient 
were not soon hit upon. The Captain and his friends 
racked their brains day and night in search of this ex- 
pedient, but all to no purpose. 

'^ An idea? " said the half-distracted Captain one day 
to Ben. '' Oh, Ben Zouf, give me an idea! " 

'^ I wish we were at Montmartre ! " said Ben simply. 

'' Montmartre ! What has Montmartre to do with 
our present difficulties? " 



THE FUEL QUESTION, 33 1 

^^ The quarries and caverns at Montmartre would be 
just the thing we want." 

*^ Quarries and caverns! — Well! That's an idea 
certainly. It may lead to something, though at present 
I 'm blest if I know what it is ! " 

^'Lieutenant/' said the Captain that evening to Pro- 
copius, ''• let us examine the south-west portion of the 
island a little. The Count and myself have been every- 
where else. I have a faint recollection of seeing some 
quarries or caverns in that direction, which might be 
turned to some account." 

Off they both started at once for the point agreed on, 
and during the walk they conversed very earnestly on 
the all-engrossing subject — how to protect the colony 
against the deadly cold now so close at hand ? Differ- 
ing very decidedly as to the best means to be employed 
for the purpose, their discussion soon became quite 
warm. The Captain, full of hope and burning with 
eagerness, insisted that there was a way, extremely 
simple and practical, only that he could not then say 
exactly what that way was. Procopius, on the contrary, 
insisted that the only proper mode of facing the ter- 
rible trial before them was not to weaken the mind 
in useless attempts to guess at something new, but to 
devote all its energies towards making the most of the 
advantages already in their possession. With this idea 



332 TO THE SUNf 

constantly in view, he had applied himself carefully to 
the solution of the question. The result was that he 
had already invented fuel-saving stoves of different 
kinds but all founded on the same principle, namely — 

''Hello! What's that?'' interrupted the Captain, 
suddenly stopping and putting the glass to his eyes. 

They had now reached the summit of a very high 
ridge running east and west through the island and 
therefore affording a wide prospect over the ocean 
that washed the southern coast. In the foreground 
lay the Dobryna and Hansa securely moored. 

''What's what?" asked Procopius, looking in the 
direction in which the Captain pointed, but seeing 
nothing save a horizon of indigo blue. 

"Alight! as sure as I exist!" answered the Cap- 
tain. 

" A light ! Where? " asked Procopius, much excited 
and now using his glass. 

"A light most decidedly!" answered the Captain. 
"A very brilliant speck on the horizon ! over the Do- 
bryna' s mast, but a little to the left ! " 

"I see it clearly!" said Procopius. "What can it 
be?" 

"A ship on fire probably," answered the Captain. 
" No mere signal light could be visible at such a dis- 
tance." 



THE FUEL QUESTION. 333 

** It is getting brighter and brighter as night comes 
on/' observed Procopius. ^'Besides it never changes 
its place/' 

'^ Can it be a lighthouse? " asked the Captain. 

^^No!" answered Procopius promptly. '^ Yon light 
lies exactly in the course by which we returned in the 
Dobryna, and had a lighthouse been there we should 
have seen it.'* 

*' Procopius ! '* cried the Captain, as if inspired. 
''It's the Volcano! " 

Procopius said nothing, but examined the light with 
redoubled care. 

But the Captain hurriedly closed his glasses, and, 
putting them away in the case, prepared to return to 
the gourbi. He was flushed with excitement and could 
hardly speak without pausing to take breath. 

'' That 's the very spot we 're looking for, Procopius !" 
he exclaimed in high, unnatural tones. ''There is 
where Nature saves us the trouble and supply of fuel ! 
Yonder burning lava is inexhaustible ! We can do what 
we please with it ! Ah ! the good kind Providence does 
not forget us ! Come, Procopius, let 's hurry back to 
the Count ! To-morrow we visit yonder mountain ! 
There we shall find heat enough to last us as long as we 
are inhabitants of Gallia ! " 

Whilst the Captain was rapidly exclaiming with all 



334 TO THE SUN? 

the ardor of his enthusiastic nature, Procopius was quietly 
thinking. Yes ; there was no doubt of a volcano exist- 
ing in that very direction. They had all seen it from 
the Dobryna on the western side of a long promontory 
on the former site of the Oran mountains. At that time 
its summit was covered with smoke \ but this smoke 
must have yielded to an eruption of flames or red-hot 
lava ; it was this eruption that was now lighting up the 
horizon and that was strongly reflected from the dark 
evening clouds above. 

^^ Captain/' said Procopius at last, ^^you must be 
right ! That is certainly the volcano, and we shall ex- 
plore it to-morrow ! '* 

On hearing of the discovery, the Count became almost 
as enthusiastic as the Captain. 

^'I shall start along with you! '^ said he. '^Proco- 
pius, have the Dobryna ready without a moment's 
delay!" 

''Father,'' said Procopius, " for such a short distance 
the Dobryna is hardly necessary. The coast, besides, is 
unknown and dangerous. The little steam-sloop will 
answer every purpose." 

" Arrange all that as you please, Procopius," answered 
the Count. " Only let us start to-morrow at daybreak." 

Like most of those expensive and luxurious steam - 
yachts of the day, the Dobryna had been provided with 




THE VOLCANO. 



THE FUEL QUESTION, 335 

a little steam-sloop set in motion by a powerful donkey 
engine of the Oriolle patent. It was got ready at once 
and without commotion, not even Ben Zouf being ad- 
mitted into the secret. He could hardly believe his 
eyes next morning, March ii, when he saw it disappear- 
ing over the southern horizon. But, like the prudent 
superintendent he was, he made no remarks on the sub- 
ject, and after breakfast had all his men hard as ever at 
work, collecting wood, sawing it, sorting it, and making 
it up into great piles around the gourbi. 

A rapid run of three or four hours brought the ex- 
plorers close under the volcano. Its summit was all in 
flames, and the eruption was evidently one of consider- 
able violence. What had caused this eruption? The 
oxygen lately transported from Earth by Gallia and now 
coming in contact with explosive material in the moun- 
tain interior? Or, more probably, did this volcano 
resemble the volcanoes of the Moon and supply its own 
oxygen ? 

After half an hour's exploration of the coast, the little 
sloop came to anchor in a sort of natural harbor formed 
by a semicircular line of rocks. This ready-made 
harbor, though small, was large enough to afford, m 
case of need, pretty safe mooring-ground to even the 
Dobryna and Hansa. 

Our travellers, landing without difficulty, began to 



33^ TO THE SUNt 

ascend the slopes of the volcano on its western side. 
Though it was by the eastern side and northern side 
that the lava torrents made their way to the sea, a 
change of temperature was immediately noticed by the 
explorers and gratefully appreciated. It was a good 
omen. Perhaps, after all, their enthusiastic expecta- 
tions were realizable ! Perhaps, by carefully exploring 
this enormous mountain rock, they might meet some 
caverns where the Gallians might find shelter from the 
deadly danger that otherwise surely awaited them. 

Up they started the steep mountain slopes, therefore, 
carefully on the lookout for every favorable turn, scal- 
ing rocks, climbing precipices, crawling over the rough 
strata, jumping from point to point with all the nimble- 
ness and almost all the surefooting of chamois, but 
never meeting with any substance except the omni- 
present and everlasting hexagon-prismed metallic ma- 
terial with which they were by this time so unpleasantly 
familiar. 

For an hour or so they saw nothing to encourage 
them. But they persevered. They could not believe 
their researches were to be useless. 

They were struggling along the side of the mountain 
at an elevation of eighty or ninety feet over the sea, 
when they approached a great pile of rock, towering 
like a vast pyramid into the sky. Behind this they sud- 



THE FUEL QUESTION. , 337 

denly discovered a narrow gallery or rather crooked 
shaft tunnelled into the mountain side. It v/as high 
enough to admit their entrance, and into it they im- 
mediately plunged. 

After a little while everything around them was as 
dark as pitch. But that they did not mind. They 
might break their necks by falling down some fright- 
ful precipice. But such a contingency never seemed 
to occur to them. One apprehension troubled them 
and one only — they might suddenly meet with a solid 
wall which barred all further progress. Only such an 
obstacle as that could make them afraid or uneasy. 
Groping their way, therefore, with hand and foot 
equally on the alert, keeping closely together, and 
rapidly communicating mutual experiences, on they 
crawled in very good spirits for at least half an hour. 
They had as yet seen nothing, but their hopes were 
rising higher and higher; the temperature was cer- 
tainly growing warmer. 

Suddenly the Captain stopped. 

^^ Hist I" said he. ^^Do you hear nothing, my 
friends ? ' ' 

^'1 hear something like the distant roar of a great 
cataract,*' said the Count. 

*'I hear something like the far-off rumbling of a 
thunder-storm in the mountains ! " said Procopius. 



338 TO THE SUN? 

^' Exactly ! *' cried the Captain, '^ but you both know 
very well that it is the bellowing of the great central 
vent of our volcano! We can't be very far from it 
now ! Where there 's a chimney there 's a chimney 
hearth ! It 's all right, dear friends ! Mother Nature 
does the whole business ! By Jove, we shall be all as 
warm as toast without ever burning a stick of wood ! 
Lieutenant, strike a light and examine the thermome- 
ter!'* 

'^ Sixty degrees, Fahrenheit, Captain,'* 

^' How did it stand at the mouth of the tunnel? " 

''At twenty-five!" 

''You see, gentlemen, we are on the right track! 
Onwards ! " 

Procopius tried to guide his steps by a burning match, 
but it went out immediately and he was too impatient 
to light another. For ten or fifteen minutes longer 
they groped on through pitchy darkness. But the 
roaring grew louder, and the temperature warmer; 
in five minutes more the wall around and the floor be- 
neath grew so warm that the heat began to feel some- 
what oppressive. 

"The material of this mountain must be metallic," 
said the Captain; "it conducts heat so well. Let us 
push on a little farther. We shall see the furnace 
presently! " 




CENTRAL HALL. 



THE FUEL QUESTION, 339 

Even as he spoke, the sides of the tunnel began tvo 
grow visible by a lurid reflected light, every moment 
growing stronger. The roar could now be distinctly 
heard, and the heat made them perspire profusely. 

'^ Eighty degrees, Fahrenheit !" said Procopius, this 
time without striking a ^match. 

The roar of the flames was soon so loud as to drowm 
their voices, and a sudden turn brought our explorers 
in presence of an awful sight. The gallery which they 
had followed here ended in an enormous cavern so 
high that the roof was invisible, but the red glare of 
its sides was almost brilliant enough to dazzle the 
eye. It was a Hall of Eblis without its Afrits, its 
Spectres, or its Despair ! At the far end of this mighty 
grotto was an opening through which the eye could 
see a cataract of white hot lava rushing down furiously 
on its way to the ocean. It was the Falls of Niagara 
viewed from the Cave of the Winds, only the shooting 
columns of water had been suddenly changed into 
hissing, sparkling, crackling, roaring pillars of white 
hot iron ! 

^^Oh most gracious Heaven I " cried Servadac, falling 
on his knees and humbly taking off his cap. ^^Our 
heartiest gratitude for such mercy ! This is more than 
we could ever expect ! ' ' 

The three friends remained for a few moments in 
silent prayer. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE. 

OUR friends had every reason to feel grateful. In 
fact, under the circumstances, no better habitation 
could be devised for the little Gallian colony. Well 
heated, well lighted, and sufficiently spacious, it would 
afford very comfortable quarters not only to the Gov- 
ernor and his ^^ subjects^' as Ben called them, but also 
to the horses and even a considerable number of other 
domestic animals during the whole course of the long 
and dreary winter — that is, if this long and dreary 
winter was ever to come to an end. 

The enormous cavern itself, as our explorers soon 
discovered, was simply a great Central Hall, into 
which some twenty or thirty other tunnels conducted 
after ramifying different portions of the mountains. 
The air in all of them, though remarkably pure, was 
very warm, the metallic walls being excellent conduct- 
ors of heat. 

'^Locked in the arms of these lofty chambers, *' said 
the Captain proudly to his companions as they traversed 

340 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 34 1 

them, ^^ thoroughly sheltered from all the rigors of a 
more than Arctic climate, knowing little or nothing of 
the colds of space no matter how low they may go, 
every single animated being of our new asteroid can 
here find sure refuge as long as — ' ' 

''As the eruption lasts! " said the Count, seeing the 
Captain hesitate. ''Which," he went on to say, "it is 
likely to do for years, if not for ages, to come. You 
have remarked that it is the only volcano so far dis- 
covered on the shores of the Gallian Sea. Being, 
therefore, in all probability, the only vent for Gallia^s 
interior fires, the eruption is likely to last quite as 
long as the asteroid herself remains in existence." 

"Nothing can be more correct than that remark of 
yours. Father," said Procopius very decidedly but rather 
hurriedly. "Captain, I must congratulate you on your 
sagacity and ourselves on our extraordinary good for- 
tune in finding such a place of refuge. But remem- 
ber, we have no time to lose. While we are speaking 
here the sea may be freezing outside ! If so, our 
' moving ' from Gourbi would be attended with endless 
difficulty!" 

"Right, Lieutenant," said the Captain. "We start 
immediately for Gourbi Island. Our ' moving ' com- 
mences to-morrow, when the Dobryna shall land hei 
first instalment here. By the by, what name shall wc 



342 TO THE SUN? 

give this promontory so opportune and so friendly in 
every respect? " 

''Terra Calida (Hot Land),'* suggested Procopius. 

" K good name," said the Captain, ^^but, in honor 
of our Spaniards, the most numerous nationality of 
our little colony, I would change its form to Tierra 
Caliente, ' ' 

"M-Y amendment is still better," said the Count. 
^^In honor of the French nation, one of whom, our 
worthy Governor, is the discoverer of this happy 
winter haven, I suggest that the final form of the 
term be Terre Chaude / " 

'^Carried by acclamation!" said Procopius inscrib 
ing the name in his note-book. " Terre Chaude it 
is!" 

We shall not attempt to describe the joy with which 
the members of the little colony received the news of 
the wonderful discovery. Not that they by any means 
fully comprehended its great importance. It was only 
the Captain himself and, of course, the Count and Pro- 
copius, that had a clear idea either of the nature of the 
long and terrible winter in store for them, or of the 
careful precautions necessary in order to be prepared 
for it. The Spaniards and even the Russians never 
dreamed that it must be infinitely worse than the six 
months of awful darkness and winter to be endured by 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 343 

the dauntless navigators of the high polar seas. These 
simple creatures never thought of asking themselves if 
the moment could ever come for Gallia to be once more 
free from the death-grip of ice-fetters? Or whether 
her orbit followed a reentering curve to take her back 
finally to the sun, or an open curve to carry her off for- 
ever through the boundless regions of stellar space ? 

Such questions, of course, never perplexed these art- 
less souls. But they had their eyes wide open to every- 
thing going on all around them. They saw the sun 
every day getting smaller and smaller; the sky every 
day getting darker and darker ; the ground every day 
getting harder and harder; and, what frightened these 
simple children of nature most of all, they saw the coun-. 
tenances of the three good men, in whom they had 
reposed the most unbounded confidence, getting every 
day gloomier and gloomier. All this portended the 
approach of some terrible calamity, which the three 
leaders, in spite of their best efforts, did not seem 
likely to be able to avert. 

But the news regarding Terre Chaude, seeming to 
please the Captain and his companions, should there- 
fore be good news. Dispersing at once all the gloomy 
forebodings of the colony, it was hailed with an ex- 
travagant joy which, as already observed, we must 
not attempt to describe. Suffice it to say that when 



344 TO THE SUN? 

they heard it, the Spaniards threw themselves at once 
on their knees, improvised a Te Deurn, and ended the 
proceedings with a lively dance. The Russians, not 
knowing any sacred hymn and unable to improvise 
one, chanted a Song to the Czar which, in spite of its 
words, being sincerely addressed to a Greater Being, 
in all probability answered its purpose quite as well 
as the most successful effort of the most devoted poet. 
Little Nina, who said her prayers regularly every night 
and morning, remained longer than ever on her knees 
that evening, thanking the good Domeniddio for mak- 
ing her friends happy, particularly her beloved Padrone, 
the Russian Count, the Ship-master, and her dear Benni 
• Zufo. Even for Isaaco il Tedesco, the poor cross old 
man who was always mumbling to himself because he 
had no friend to talk with, the kind little creature con- 
trived to offer a prayer or two. 

It took the colony three days' hard work to get through 
the ' ' moving. ' ' The Dobryna, loaded to her bulwarks, 
could make but one trip a day. Her first cargo was all 
che grain, hay, straw and other stores of the kind, that 
she could carry; it arrived safely, and was carefully 
stowed away in the galleries destined for its reception. 
Next day, March 15, the rocky caverns received those 
domestic animals, cattle, sheep, hogs, etc., whose species 
it had been determined to preserve — about fifty or sixty 



THE CHANGE OE DOMICILE, 345 

altogether. The others, as they could not be kept alive, 
were slaughtered, the bodies butchered, and the meat 
packed away carefully for future use. This furnished a 
supply of provisions at once immense and safe, as such 
cold was always sure to keep them perfectly fresh and 
sweet. 

Whilst Procopius superintended the loading and the dis- 
charging of the cargoes, the Captain and the Count saw 
that the goods were properly stowed away in the vaults. 
In performing this important duty they displayed much 
ingenuity and were attended with great success. New 
explorations discovered new galleries ramifying almost 
without end, so that the mountain resembled a vast bee- 
hive full of honeycombs. Here the bees, that is to say 
the Gallians, could find plenty of heat to warm them- 
selves with, plenty of food to feed themselves with, 
plenty of sleep to refresh themselves with, and plenty of 
company to amuse themselves with. What more could 
the most industrious bee desire ? It was with this idea 
in his mind, and also in honor of the Italian girl, their 
little Madonna, that the Captain named the new dwell- 
ing-place Alveario di Nina (The Nina Beehive). 

It was soon clear enough that the great lava torrent, 
though a powerful engine for imparting general heat, 
would be of very little use for the other daily wants of 
the colony unless some plan was hit upon for utilizing it 



346 TO THE SUN? 

to the best advantage. To this object one of the Cap- 
tain's first engineering labors was directed, and with 
Procopius's intelligent aid he soon completely succeeded. 
By closer exploration they discovered here and there 
smaller winding galleries opening out on the great Falls. 
As long as both ends of these galleries were open, the 
heat in them though great was not insupportable. By 
stopping up the outer end, however, and thus cutting off 
the rush of cold air from outside, each little gallery was 
at once turned into a perfect oven. The cooking-range 
of the Dobryna being brought into one of these gal- 
leries, it was so readily heated by the irradiating lava 
that Mochel the head cook at once declared he had 
never found anything so convenient in all his life. In 
fact, he really felt himself far more comfortable at the 
closed end of his little lava channel than he had ever 
been in the stifling, roasting steam kitchen of the 
yacht. 

^^ Hey, Mochel ! '* cried Ben, one day seeing him 
quietly superintending the cooking of a new soup he 
had just invented, called Potage a la Volcano, ^' hey ! 
Chef, what do you think of our new heating apparatus? 
When we get back to the Old World, we 're going to 
take out a patent for the idea ! We shall begin by 
laying pipes from Vesuvius for southern Europe, and 
from Hecla for northern ! . Fact, I assure you. I heard 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 34/ 

the Governor telling your Old Man all about it ! They 
have already decided on the name of their pamphlet — 
I saw it myself ! It is called : Fuel Superseded ! Coal 
Monopoly Crushed ! Every maii his own volcano at a 
penny a day I ' ' 

The great cavern in which most of the galleries ended 
was to be the Central Hall for general use. It was ac- 
cordingly made as comfortable as possible by a supply 
of the chief articles of furniture from the gourbi and 
the Dobryna, The great sails, also taken down and 
brought in, served here for screens and a variety of 
other important purposes. Here too the Count's fine 
library, well supplied with Russian, French, German. 
Italian and Spanish books, naturally found its place. 
Plenty of tables, lamps, chairs and cushions made 
everything quite cosy, and even the bare metallic 
walls were quite relieved by some valuable paintings 
that the Count was afraid might get injured if left on 
board the Dobryna, 

The lava torrent, which was continually falling at a 
distance of thirty or forty feet from the great opening 
of the Central Hall, was here, as has been already 
mentioned, the great source of light and heat. By 
tracing the course of this torrent a little further down, 
which was done after awhile by exploring the mountain 
on the outside, the Captain discovered that it plunged 



34? TO THE SUNf 

hissing and smoking into a kind of vast lake sarrounded 
on all sides by rocks and therefore probably completely 
cut off from the rest of the Gallian Sea. This was 
another most fortunate discovery. Might not the 
waters of this lake remain in a liquid state in spite 
of the severest rigor of a Gallian winter ? 

A pretty large recess, opening on the left out of the 
Central Hall, became the chamber especially reserved 
for the Captain and the Count. Another correspond- 
ing opening on the right was occupied by Procopius 
and Ben Zouf. A little nook quite close to this, a 
charming boudoir Ben called it, was turned by his 
taste and care into a very pleasant sleeping apartment 
for Nina. The Russians and Spaniards arranged their 
dormitories as well as they could in the different gal- 
leries opening into the Central Hall and rendered per- 
fectly comfortable by its light and heat. 

Such was Alveario di Nina — The Nina Beehive. Here 
the little colony could wait without much uneasiness for 
the long and terrible winter which should soon rage 
in every other part of Gallia. And even in case the 
asteroid should follow an orbit carrying her as far as 
Jupiter and therefore be subjected to a degree of cold 
twenty-five times lower than the mean temperature of 
the Earth, there was every reason to hope that the Gal- 
Hans could brave it with perfect impunity. 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 349 

But what was to become of old Isaac? Was he to 
be left behind in disgust to perish of cold and hunger ? 
Not exactly; he was not to be left behind though, to 
tell the truth, he tried the patience and humanity of 
the Gallians so sorely that many of them wanted never 
to see his foxy face again, and swore that to leave him 
behind would be serving him quite right. 

In fact, the misbelieving old miser, deaf as a post 
to every argument, reason and proof which the Cap- 
tain, the Count or Procopius through motives of pure 
humanity showered upon him, never quitted the Hansa 
a minute. There he stuck day and night, rambling up 
and down from deck to hold and from hold to deck, 
starting at every noise as at a robber's footstep, growl- 
ing at the thieving Spaniards that would not pay their 
fare^ scanning the lonely horizon for some ship with 
news from Europe, and continually on the watch for 
a chance to bribe two or three of the Russian sailors. 
But this chance he waited for in vain. Having de- 
clared formally to Captain Hector that he would not 
part with a single dollar's worth of his goods without 
cash down — gold too, none of your rags for him — 
the Captain, by way of reprisal, had issued positive 
orders that no one should either buy of Dutch Isaac, 
sell to him, or take anything from him on any account. 
In case of pressing necessity, they might give him what 



3 so TO THE SUNf 

he wanted if they liked to do so, but on no account 
should they take anything from him, or, in short, hold 
communication with him any further. 

But this embargo, except that for the moment it 
'^blocked his little game," as Ben said, of corrupt- 
ing the Russians, did not appear to give the old 
miser the smallest concern. What did he care whether 
they spoke to him or not ? He was not to be fright- 
ened by bugbears ! He was no such jackass as, like 
those Russian boors or those Spanish buffoons, to be 
imposed upon by every cock and a bull story ! Not on 
the Earth any longer ! On a block blown off it, like 
a bung out of a beer barrel ! Flying through space 
like a broken kite on a windy day ! No, no ! Old 
Dutch Isaac had had his eye-teeth cut long ago ! That 
something very strange had happened, he did not deny. 
An earthquake or some other physical catastrophe had 
certainly considerably modified the ordinary condition 
of things. But the disturbance was entirely local. He 
would soon be able to get away from this accursed 
spot and once more resume his traffic with the simple 
natives of the African shore. These Frenchmen and 
Russians were no doubt hatching some conspiracy to 
deprive him of his goods. But they should find their 
match ! He, Isaac, had dealt with as smart people 
as ever they were, and had not come off second best * 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 35 1 

There was nothing green about him, etc., etc. After 
scolding and grumbling this way for an hour or two, 
he would start up suddenly, clap to his eye an old 
telescope patched all over and as rusty as a worn-out 
stovepipe, and sweep the horizon once more for the 
ship that was to bring news from Europe with per- 
haps a merchant with plenty of red gold in his purse 
to be exchanged for the contents of the Hansa. 

Ship and merchant he sought in vain, but he could 
see very clearly that something unusual was taking place 
in Gourbi Island. What was up? Preparing to remove 
into winter-quarters? Not a bit of it ! Some new dodge 
of these Frenchmen and Russians to do him out of his 
property ! But it was to be a miserable failure, like all 
the others ! 

But when he saw the Dobryna^ laden down to her 
very last water-mark, make two separate trips to the 
south and return for a third, he began to entertain 
some misgivings regarding the justice of his conclusions. 
Was Captain Servadac really determined to transport 
the whole colony from the Isle of Gourbi? He cer- 
tainly looked like it. In fact, there could be no doubt 
about it. Here certainly Isaac had to acknowledge to 
himself that he had been altogether in the wrong. But 
might he not be quite as wrong in all the other points ? 
What if what he called a cock and a bull story were 



352 TO THE SUN? 

after all perfectly true? What if he were really on an 
asteroid instead of on the Earth? On the Gallian Sea 
instead of the Mediterranean ? What if he were never 
again to see his dear Germany, or, what was infinitely 
worse, if he should never again have a chance of selling 
his goods at 300 per cent, profit to the simpletons of 
Tunis and Tripoli? Such thoughts were actually dis- 
traction, and in a quarter of an hour he made up his 
mind to endure the suspense no longer. 

Hastily quitting the Hansa, he soon found himself in 
the midst of the Russians and Spaniards, all as busy as 
bees, getting everything ready for their last trip from 
Gourbi Island. 

He noticed that Ben Zouf was watching him like a 
hawk, but that did not disconcert him. 

^^Oh ! my dear Signor Ben Zhouf ! *' he cried, run- 
ning up and presenting his greasy old snuff-box. 
^^ Won't you take a pinch this morning? It is the 
best snuff the Hansa can offer, but it is not half good 
enough for Signor Ben Zhouf! ^' 

*^No, thank you, Pharaoh!'' replied Ben. '^Noth- 
ing from you ! That 's our orders. You can eat up, 
drink up, and snuff up the whole Hansa if you like, 
old Nabuco! " 

^^S'help me Father Abraham!" persisted Isaac, 
*^ this snuff is perfumed with attar of the roses of Gha- 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 353 

zipour ! It was manufactured expressly for the Khedive 
of Egypt, but he found it too dear and could not take it. 
I bought some of it for such good gentlemen as Signor 
Ben Zhouf. Try a pinch ! " 

^^ You '11 be put in irons for tempting me to disobey 
orders, Nehemiah ! " said Ben. ^* But look ! '* he added 
hastily, pointing at the Captain. ^^ There's the Gov- 
ernor General himself! Try your snuif on him ! '* 

Servadac was very busy at the moment, but, seeing 
Isaac shuffling up to him, he waited to hear what he had 
to say. 

^^Has Signor the Governor General really and truly 
ordered the people to remove ? " he asked with nervous 
earnestness. 

''The Governor General has done so really and 
truly," answered the Captain; ''if you're coming 
along you had better hurry up ! " 

"S'help me Father Abraham!" cried Isaac, very 
much perplexed, "I don't know what is best to be 
done ! " 

" Don't you want two or three good men to take the 
Hansa to Terre Chaude?" asked the Captain. 

"I want two or three good men to take the Hansa to 
Algiers ! " was Isaac's truthful reply. 

"But Algiers isn't there! You have been told so a 
thousand times ! ' ' 



354 ^^ ^^^ ^^^f 

'' Holy Father Abraham ! • Is it possible ? " 

* * Isaac, I ask you for the last time, are you willing oi 
not to follow us with your vessel to Terre Chaude, where 
we expect to be able to pass a long and terrible winter 
with perfect safety ? ' ' 

'^ Don't ask me to move, Signor Governor; it would 
ruin my goods ! '* 

^'You are not willing then? Well, I must now tell 
you that, with your consent or without it, we shall put 
the Hansa in a secure position/* 

" Without my consent, Signor Governor ? *' 

^'Yes, even without your consent. Such a precious 
cargo must not be lost through your stupid pigheaded- 
ness. * * 

^' S' help me Father Abraham, the Governor wants to 
ruin me ! " 

^^ I am strongly tempted to abandon you to your fate, 
you stubborn Dutch boor!'' cried Servadac, hurrying 
away in a towering passion very unbecoming in a Gov- 
ernor, who, no matter what the provocation, should never 
forget his manners. 

Every preparation being completed that evening, the 
general departure from the Isle of Gourbi was fixed for 
next morning, March 20. The thermometer was now as 
low as 18^ Fahrenheit, and every particle of exposed 
fresh water was of course solidly frozen. The Hansa 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE. 355 

fvas to accompany the Dobryna. She would never be 
able to resist the pressure of the ice in the port of the 
Sheliff. In the little harbor of Terre Chaude she would 
be better protected every way, and even in case of dis- 
aster her valuable cargo would be likely to be saved. 

The embarkation was quietly and safely effected. A 
little after sunrise all were on board the Dobry?ta, except 
the four Russian sailors detailed by Procopius to conduct 
the Ha7isa to her winter-quarters. With what invec- 
tives Isaac welcomed these sailors on board, how often 
he told them that they were no better than burglars, 
that he did not require their aid, that all he wanted was 
to be let alone, that even the Governor General had no 
authority to invade the rights of a poor unoffending 
man, that he should pay dearly for it if justice were to be 
found any more in the world, etc., etc., cannot here be 
told. In the midst of his bitter tears, however, and his 
loudest lamentations and wildest fits of passion, a close 
observer could easily catch a cool gleam flashing every 
now and then out of his cunning eyes that showed him 
clearly, in spite of all his apparent excitement, to be the 
most self-possessed man on board and one from whose 
notice in reality nothing was allowed to escape. Three 
or four hours afterwards, when he saw his vessel comfort- 
ably and securely cradled in a little inlet not far from the 
DobrynUy the same observer would have caught glances 



356 TG THE SUNf 

of very unequivocal satisfaction beaming from his coun- 
tenance every moment he thought he was not watched. 
He would also see his lips moving as if angrily and hear 
his voice grumbling as if muttering imprecations, but, 
if close enough, he could have heard expressions of deep 
fierce joy : 

** For nothing ! The numskulls haven't charged me 
a cent ! S' help me Father Abraham, it would be dog 
cheap at ten dollars ! But the asses ask no pay ! They 
work hard and work well, and do it all for nothing ! 
For nothing ! ! '' 

The Captain and his companions took possession of 
Terre Chaude with some pretension to formality and 
order. The Spaniards and Russians were highly de- 
lighted with Alveario di Nina, warmly extolled its in- 
terior arrangements, and congratulated each other on 
their warm and comfortable winter-quarters. The only 
man who did not answer his name that evening before 
supper in the Central Hall was old Isaac. Ben Zouf 
reported him as still on board his vessel, which he posi- 
tively refused to leave on any account. ^^He's prob- 
ably afraid," added Ben, ^^of being charged for his 
board. But wait awhile ! The old fox will soon be 
glad enough to get his nose in here ! ' ' 

The supper was a great success. Mochers lava steaks 
and volcano chops were universally and loudly com- 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 357 

mended. Wine — some of the best French brands, 
thanks to the Count's generosity — flowed pretty freely, 
and everybody was soon decidedly gay and happy. 
Songs were sung, speeches made, toasts to the Governor 
General and his Cabinet drank with enthusiasm, and 
Ben Zouf, who drank everybody's health in sparkling 
Clos Vougeot, made such lively and characteristic sal- 
lies as set the company in roars. The Spaniards, jump- 
ing up, danced a national dance with extraordinary 
spirit and abandon. While taking breath, they asked 
Ben for a touch of his famous Zouave Chorus which, 
though often promised, he had always put off on some 
pretext or other. Description of its execution would be 
labor lost. To get some idea of it, you should have it 
done by a master like Ben Zouf — no one else should 
attempt it. His rendition of the following doggerel, 
mostly untranslatable, was inimitable : 

Misti goth dar dar tire lyre ! 
Flic! floe! flac! lirette, lira! 
Far la rira 
Tour tala rire 
Tour la Ribaud, 
Ricardeau, 
Sans repos, repit, repit repos, ris pot, ripette I 
Si vous attrapez mon refrain, 
Fameux vous etes. 

When the wild enthusiasm that greeted the Zouave^s 



358 TO THE SUNT 

Chorus had subsided, the Spaniards started oif again 
with another of the graceful sarabands of the country. 
The Russians treated the company to some of the 
most popular national dances and sailors' hornpipes. 
Then the vaults rang with cries for ^'Ben Zouf! Ben 
Zouf!'* Ben, nothing loath, took the floor and en- 
tranced the company with a Pas seul of the kind so 
well known at the Salle Barthelemi or the Closerie de 
Lilas, executed in a style that even a virtuoso would 
pronounce unsurpassable out of Paris. 

At nine o'clock the inauguration ball came to a close, 
but, before retiring, the Captain suggested the propriety 
of all going, outside for a few moments to take the air. 
The wine, the lights, the dancing and the heat, had 
raised the temperature of the blood somewhat too high, 
and a little cooling off was advisable. 

In a few moments Central Hall was completely 
deserted except by the Captain and his two friends, 
who had remained a little behind to exchange a few 
words on the events of the day. They were proceed- 
ing leisurely towards the outward opening when they 
were suddenly startled by a general cry outside expres- 
sive at once of surprise, joy and triumph. Not knowing 
what to make of it and imagining worlds of strange 
conjectures, they hurried with all speed out of the 
gallery. They found the entrance blocked up by their 




A PAS SEUL. 



THE CHANGE OF DOMICILE, 359 

people, very much excited and still shouting with all 
the power of their lungs. Ben Zouf in particular was 
remarkable for the loudness of his cheering and the 
violence of his joyous gesticulations. 

''Oh! Governor General!" he cried as soon as he 
caught sight of the Captain. ^^Oh! Monseigneur, 
come out here quick! " 

''What is it, Ben Zouf?" asked the Captain, hurry 
ing forward. 

"The Moon!" exclaimed Ben, pointing to the 
western horizon. 

And sure enough, there was a little moon working 
her way up out of the mists of night and moving slowly 
for the first time over the Gallian sky ! 



CHAPTER XXII. 

LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 

THE Moon! If the Moon, why had she been so 
long absent ? And if she now reappeared, whence 
could she have come? So far, no satellite whatever 
had accompanied Gallia ; had the faithless goddess 
of night abandoned old Earth to transfer her affections 
to the young asteroid ? 

Procopius scouted the idea. The Moon ! Impossi- 
ble ! She was still at her post, ruling the nights of 
old Earth, and now many millions of miles away ! 

^^I don't feel quite so sure about that. Lieutenant," 
said the Captain, who still had his doubts regarding the 
correctness of the Procopian theory. *'Why could not 
the Moon have lately succumbed to Gallia's attractions 
and so become her satellite ? ' ' 

'' Such a supposition is altogether inadmissible, Cap- 
tain,'' said Procopius. 

'^Why so, Lieutenant?" asked Servadac; *^ could 
not the same explosion that blew us off have blown 
the Moon off too? Wandering about then in solar 
space, might she not at last have fallen — " 

360 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 361 

'^No, my dear Captain," answered Procopius. ^'The 
Moon could not have fallen within the sphere of Gallia's 
attraction for the very good and sufficient reason that, 
her mass being far superior to Gallia's, our little asteroid 
would have become the Moon's satellite instead of the 
Moon becoming ours." 

^^Very true, Lieutenant," said the Captain, who, 
being very much puzzled himself, naturally took a 
malicious pleasure in puzzling Procopius, ^^but how 
do we know that such is not really the case? May 
we not be the Moon's moon? How do we know 
that the Earth has not been launched on a new orbit, 
and that we are not still accompanying her in her jour- 
ney through planetary space ? ' ' 

^^Do you really expect an argument in reply to this 
new theory of yours, Captain ? ' ' asked Procopius, who 
in spite of the cold air was beginning to feel a little 
heated. 

^^Not at all, my dear Lieutenant," said the Captain, 
smiling, and feeling that the discussion had gone far 
enough. ^^I see the simplicity of my question now, 
and can answer it readily enough. If Gallia were a 
secondary satellite, she would not take three months 
to make a half turn around her primary. Conse- 
quently, if there was anything in my new theory, 
wc should not be now looking at the old Moon for 



362 TO THE SUN? 

the first time since the catastrophe. Let us examine 
the new one ! ' ' 

A glance or two from their telescopes showed the 
stranger not to be the old Moon certainly, whatever 
else she was. Though evidently much nearer, she 
was also much smaller. Though full, she had not the 
tenth part of the lunar surface, and she reflected the 
sunlight so feebly as scarcely to extinguish a star of 
the eighth magnitude. She showed none of the 
*^seas" or ^^ craters" or ^'mountains" or *^ rills" 
or other characteristics that give such peculiarity to 
our ordinary maps of the Moon. In short, the new 
comer had not the slightest claim to be considered 
the ''Chaste Diana" of the poets, the ''Silver God- 
dess of Night," the "Queen of the Golden Stars." 

What was she then? A special moon in all proba 
bility, as the Count suggested, a little asteroid captured 
by Gallia as she flew through the zone of the telescopic 
planets. Many of these asteroids are well known to be 
so small that a good walker could easily get round one 
of them in twenty-four hours. It was not at all im- 
probable, therefore, that, being so much inferior in 
mass to Gallia, one of them should have become her 
satellite. 

Long before this point was settled, the unscientific 
portion of the colony, Ben Zouf Included, had grown 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 363 

tired of admiring the little moon, and, withdrawing 
to their quarters, were soon fast asleep. The first 
night at Alveario di Nina passed without further inci- 
dent, and next morning the general mode of living was 
regularly organized. The Captain, justly regarding idle- 
ness as the source of every vice, gave every man some 
occupation, and took care that all should have plenty 
of work. The care of the domestic animals, in the 
first place, demanded great attention. Then preparing 
preserved food ; fishing, while the sea was still open : 
clearing the galleries, many of which were very much 
obstructed ; and thousands of other details furnished 
emplo)Tnent enough to keep every hand continually 
busy. 

The very best understanding existed all through the 
little colony. The Russians and Spaniards were the 
best of friends, and soon began to talk to each other 
a little in French, the official language. Pablo and 
Nina went to school every day to the Captain, who 
found them very interesting pupils from their intelli- 
gence and docility. Amusing them was one of Ben 
Zoufs numerous occupations. He taught them rhymes 
without number and tricks without end. He always 
wound up his lecture by the description of a beautiful 
and famous city that he would take them to as soon 
as they should return to old Earth. It was built at 



364 TO THE SUNT 

the foot of a mountain still more beautiful and famous 
that had not its equal in the world and was in fact 
a perfect land of enchantment. The city's name, the 
Professor said, commenced with a P, and the moun- 
tain's with an M. 

''Isn't it all true, Monseigneur? " he asked the 
Captain, who happened to pass by one day while Ben 
was amusing the children with his wonderful stories. 

''Ben Zouf!" answered the Captain impatiently; 
" how often have I told you that I do not wish to be 
designated by any such title ? ' ' 

"Ten times at least, Monseigneur ! " 

"Well-^?" 

" I shall do so no more, Monseigneur ! '* 

"I want you to have done with it at once — now — 
do you understand ? ' ' 

" Certainly, Monseigneur ! " 

"Why — you don't want to call me nicknames, do 
you?" 

" Certainly not, Monseigneur ! " 

" That 's precisely what you are doing ! " 

" How 's that, Monseigneur? " 

" Do you know the exact meaning of the word? " 

"I can't say that I do, Monseigneur ! " 

^^ Mon means 7ny, and seigneur is French for senioi 
the Latin for old 7?ia?i. So in titling me monseigneur 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 365 

you are simply calling your Captain ^my old man.* 
Is that showing a proper respect for your commanding 
officer ?^^ 

''It is not, Mon — I mean Captain! Excuse me 
this time and I promise I shall never call you ' my 
old man ' again as long as I live, Mon — that, is Gov- 
ernor ! ** 

And he kept his promise. 

Meantime the second half of March was passing rap- 
idly away and still the extraordinary cold so long ex- 
pected did not make its appearance. The Captain, 
therefore, and his companions did not house them- 
selves very closely. They even attempted a few ex- 
cursions along the western shore of the new continent, 
and ventured a little into its interior to a distance 
of five or six miles from the volcano. It was still the 
same terrible rocky desert without the slightest sign 
of vegetation. A few threads of ice and here and 
there a few lumps of snow announced already the ap- 
pearance of water on its surface. But how many ages 
and ages should elapse before a river would be pow- 
erful enough to scoop out of this rocky soil the channel 
in which it might roll its united waters to the ocean ! 
And as to this Terre Chaude itself — what was it? A 
continent ? an island ? did it extend to the South Pole ? 
An answer could not be given to these questions untij 



366 TO THE SUNf 

such time — apparently distant enough now — as an ex- 
pedition over these metallic crystallizations was possible. 

A bird's-eye glance over this dreary region, however, 
would be possible, in a limited way, from the summit 
of the volcano which could not be less than three or four 
thousand feet over the level of the sea. This bird's- 
eye view the Captain and the Count determined to 
obtain. The volcano itself was an enormous solid lava 
block, of a pretty regular shape, somewhat resembling 
a truncated cone. Its crater was rather narrow in 
dimensions, and a dense canopy of black vapor cov- 
ered it like a cap. 

To climb such a mountain even in Italy would have 
been a diflicult feat. Its steep slopes and slippery 
declivities would have offered little foothold to the 
most enterprising member of the Alpine Club. If 
success was at all attained, it would be only after an 
extraordinary expenditure of pluck, energy and time. 
But the diminution of gravity rendered the ascent of 
the Terre Chaude mountain a task of little or no dif- 
ficulty. Indeed the Captain and the Count found it 
rather a delightful pastime rather than a severe piece 
of toil. Chamois could not have b'ounded more lightly 
from rock to rock ; eagles could not have floated more 
gracefully over the bottomless abysses. They hardly 
took an hour to scale a mountain between three and four 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 367 

thousand feet high \ and even when they stood on 
the edge of the crater they were no more fatigued 
than if they had walked no more than a few miles 
on a level plain. Decidedly if Gallia possessed some 
inconveniences as a place of residence, she had also 
her advantages. 

From their lofty pinnacle, the two explorers, glass to 
eye, soon saw that, in whatever direction they looked, 
they could learn nothing new. To the north stretched 
the cold liquid plains of the Gallian Sea, without a 
ripple, smooth as a mirror, the very breezes of heaven 
seeming to be frozen into stillness. A small black speck 
nor' -east by north, doubtless an ocular delusion due to 
refraction, showed the position of Gourbi Island. To 
the south, endlessly and hopelessly extended the inhos- 
pitable regions of Terre Chaude, shaped somewhat like 
a triangle, the volcano being the vertex, and the base 
lying on the other side of the horizon. Even when 
examined from this high point, which of course should 
soften off all asperities, the surface of the unknown 
territory seemed totally impracticable. Bristling with 
millions of hexagonal crystals, sharp as steel, hard as 
adamant, and rising here and there into ridges of im- 
mense height, it presented, except for a short distance, 
an obstacle absolutely and completely impervious to 
mortal foot. 



368 TO THE SUNf 

'' Wings alone or a balloon/^ said the Captain, ^' would 
enable us to explore such a craggy, spiky, spiny terri- 
tory ! We can now gaze, Count, on a chemical forma- 
tion the like of which has never been exposed in any 
of the museums of Earth." 

'^ Very true, Captain," said the Count. ^'You have 
also remarked ho\v easily we can detect Gallia's con- 
vexity from this vantage ground. See what a compara- 
tively short distance separates us from the horizon ! " 

^^ Yes, Count; I have often witnessed that effect from 
the cliffs of Gourbi. From a height of four thousand 
feet on our old Earth a horizon nearly eighty miles off 
could be easily seen. Here the horizon can be hardly 
more than one-third of that distance." 

^'Yes, Gallia is quite a small place w^hen compared 
with our Earth, ' ' observed the Count. 

''Small as it is, however," replied the Captain, ''it 
is large enough for its population. Remark besides, its 
productive portion is strictly confined to the cultivable 
portions of Gourbi." 

"Productive," observed the Count, " for two or three 
months in summer. Unproductive — a desert, for a win- 
ter of perhaps thousands of years' duration." 

"Well, Count," replied the Captain cheerfully, "we 
were not consulted when they started on this journey 
through planetary space, and we must only try to make 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 369 

the best of it. A philosophical turn of mind is a won- 
derful help to a man in difBculties ! ' ' 

'^A grateful turn of mind is still better," said the 
Count gravely. ^'Let us not forget the Heavenly Hand 
that built this volcanic pillar, and filled its interior with 
lava. Without this vent for Gallia's internal fires we 
should have been undone ! " 

'^I am profoundly grateful," said the Captain, lifting 
his cap, ^^and hopeful too. These fires will not give 
out before the end." 

^^What end, Captain?" 

'^Whatever end, my dear Count, God has in store 
for us ! He alone knows it. Welcome be His holy 
will!" 

After a few moments spent in silent recollection they 
thought of descending, but first wished to cast a glance 
at the crater of the volcano. The chief peculiarity that 
struck them was its singular calmness. None of that 
stunning commotion, of that ear-splitting thunder by 
which ordinary volcanic eruptions are always attended. 
The profound silence here was really wonderful. There 
was not even a bubbling of the lava. This liquid sub- 
stance, white hot, rose gradually in the crater, as in a 
sheltered lake, broad and deep, and fed at one end by 
a noiseless stream. As the Captain phrased it, the 
crater was no pot, heated so much by a brisk fire as to 



370 TO THE SUNf 

boil ovei with gas, steam, noise and smoke; it was 
rather a basin, filled to the brim and a little more, so 
as to trickle over without sound, almost without motion. 
Nothing therefore escaped but pure incandescent lava. 
None of those flying masses of molten rock; none of 
those enormous clouds of burning cinders that make 
other volcanoes look at times like a gigantic fire foun- 
tain. Accordingly therefore the base of the mountain 
was perfectly free from blocks of pumice, slag, obsidian 
and other rocks of Plutonic origin that usually strew the 
approaches to a volcano either active or extinct. No 
depositing glacier having yet begun to exist, it is hardly 
necessary to say that no boulders were visible. All 
'* these peculiarities,'' observed the Count as they be- 
gan descending, ^*are good signs that our volcano is 
not one of the intermittent kind. Violent effort, in 
the physical as well as in the moral world, must be of 
short duration. Furious storms, like furious passions, 
never last long. This liquid fire rises so regularly and 
overflows so calmly that its source is probably inex- 
haustible. You remember Niagara? The enormous 
body of water slips on so smoothly and moves on 
so grandly over the rocky channel that the thought 
never occurs to us of anything being ever able to 
interrupt its mighty flow. Here the effect is pre- 
cisely the same. I really don't see why those brim- 



LIFE AT TERRE CHAUDE. 3/1 

ming lava tides should not continue to flow on for 
untold ages." 

'^I am very glad you think so, Count/' answered the 
(Captain. ^^And now that our mind is at rest on one 
subject, what do you say to our being done with an- 
other ? " 

^^What other?" asked the Count. *^ Do you mean 
the state of the sea? " 

'^Precisely/' answered Servadac. ^^We are now 
quite ready for its freezing. Once solid, the surface of 
the Gallian Sea would open up easy communication 
with Gourbi, besides giving our people plenty of healthy 
and amusing exercise." 

^'It is now certainly cold enough to freeze," said the 
Count. ^^ Why the sea has not frozen is due I suppose 
to its perfect immobility." 

'^Yes," said the Captain, '^you see the slightest 
breath of air does not ripple its surface. In such a 
condition it can bear a very considerable degree of cold 
without solidifying. But give it the slightest disturb- 
ance — Crack ! " 

'' Let us start it this evening," said the Count. 

That evening, by the Captain's order, the whole 
colony was assembled on a rocky ledge at the ex- 
treme point of Terre Chaude, commanding a broad 
and uninterrupted view of the Gallian Sea. He wished 



372 TO THE SUN? 

them all to be witnesses of a curious physical phenom 
enon. 

^^Dear Nina," said he to the child, ^^ I want to see 
how far you can fling a lump of ice into the ocean." 

'' Signor Ettore," answered Nina, she always callec 
him by that name, '' I can't throw it far, but you should 
£:ee how far Pablo can throw it." 

'^You throw it now, little pet," said the Captain, 
putting a piece of ice into her hand; ^^we shall try 
your friend Pablo another time." 

'^ Watch carefully, Pablo," he added turning to the 
little Spaniard. ^^ You will soon see what a wonderful 
witch our little Nina is. She can command the ele- 
ments. Come, darling. Throw when I give the signal. 
One. Two. Three ! " 

Away went the lump of ice whirling out of the child's 
hand. In a second it touched the smooth water. In- 
stantly a slight crackling, shrivelling, shivering, quiver- 
ing, jarring, rustling sound was distinctly heard flying 
in all directions as far as the horizon. 

In less than another second the Gallian Sea was frozen 
solid ! 




••FLING!" SAID THE CAPTAIN. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

ON THE TRACK AT LAST. 

''^pHREE hours after sunset on the twenty-third of 
± March the little moon rose in the west, and the 
Gallians could see that she was now nearing her last 
quarter. In four days, therefore, she had passed from 
opposition to quadrature, which gave her about a week 
of visibility and fifteen or sixteen days for a lunation. 
The lunar months were thus, like the solar days, di- 
minished by half. 

Three days afterwards she entered into conjunction 
with the sun and, of course, disappeared in his irradia- 
tion. 

''Will she ever come back?'' asked Ben Zouf, natu- 
rally interested in her reappearance, but too much as- 
tounded at the late cosmical events to have great con- 
fidence in the stability of anything. 

The sky being now very clear and cold, the mercury 
fell to io° Fahrenheit. 

How far was Gallia now from the sun ? What orbit 
!)ad she followed since the date given in the last docu- 

373 



374 TO THE SUN? 

ment? No one could tell. The sun's diameter was 
of course still getting smaller and smaller, but that 
told nothing definite. What had become of the as- 
tronomer ? 

'^ Cases, barrels, and bottles can serve his purpose no 
longer,*' said the Captain, ^'now that the sea is as 
hard as steel. But I should like dearly to hear from 
him again." 

*^Hard as steel*' was no exaggeration in describing 
the surface of the sea. The Captain might have added 
^^and smooth as a piece of plate-glass." It had be- 
come frozen in magnificent weather and at a moment 
when not a breath of air played on its surface. Ac- 
cordingly it had not a single break, crevice, crack, or 
the slightest bit of roughness. It was a splendid 
mirror, extending in every direction, without flaw 
blur, or fault of any kind. 

^' How different it is from what we saw in the Pola 
seas, Procopius," observed the Count as they were 
talking together one evening. ^* There, nothing bu^ 
icebergs, hammocks, ice packs, ice blocks, ice fringes, 
ice feet, ice ridges, ice tables, ice cliffs, flues, glacier? 
and what not ! all thrown together in the wildest con- 
fusion, in the most fantastic attitudes, and often rising 
to most astounding heights 1 " 

*'Yes," answered Procopius, '^I remember our Mce- 



ON THE TRACK AT LAST. 3/5 

fields' well. Nothing was firm on them, nothing un- 
changeable. A slight variation of temperature, a faint 
blast of wind, and everything was transformed ! It 
was fairy-land with ice decorations. Here, on the 
contrary, everything is solid, more stable even than 
the land. For smoothness and extent our plains sur- 
pass anything that the old world could ever show. 
The plateaux of the Sahara, the steppes of Russia are 
nothing in comparison. And this icy armor will go 
on getting thicker and thicker as the temperature be- 
comes colder and colder until thaw time comes — if 
indeed a thaw time is ever to visit Gallia." 

The Russians, though already accustomed to almost 
every form of congelation, looked on the Gallian Sea 
at first with great surprise, but soon also with delight. 
It offered the most splendid skating-ground that could 
be imagined. The Dobryna, in her .character as a 
yacht prepared for every climate and every tempera- 
ture, possessed a fine assortment of skates of all sizes 
and patterns. These the Count generously distributed 
to everybody willing to use them. His generosity was 
duly appreciated. Every Gallian was soon on the ice. 
The Spaniards, dancers par excellence, under the in- 
struction of their friends the Russians soon became 
excellent skaters. Nina and Pablo were quite as apt 
as the rest. The Captain likewise soon did honor 



376 TO THE SUNf 

to his professor the Count. But it was Ben Zouf who 
most astonished the little world by the ease, grace and 
audacity of his style. 

^' Where did you learn your skatesmanship ? " asked 
the Captain one day, lost in admiration of Ben's super- 
fine skill. 

'^In the Montmartre Basin, Captain," replied Ben. 
'^ Where else ? It 's quite a sea, you know ! '' 

But though Ben could cut up shines on the ice and 
perform such tricks as no one else could attempt, he 
was no match for Procopius at a steady piece of hard 
work. The Lieutenant, on several occasions, went the 
round trip to Gourbi and back, on ice, a distance of 
fifty or sixty miles, in little more than two hours. 

*^ Skating is a good substitute for railroads,*' said the 
Captain one day, trying to be epigrammatical. ^^ In- 
deed I may call it a flying railroad. The skate is the 
rail smooth and hard, diminutive indeed in size, but 
compensating for this by its mobility ! ' ' 

In the meantime the cold kept on steadily increasing 
and the sunlight steadily diminishing. The sun's disc 
at midday gave no more light now than he had often 
given on Earth during the moments of a partial eclipse. 
A kind of gloomy lurid tinge began to fall on every 
object. Against the depressing effect of this on the 
spirits it was necessary to take action. It would never 



ON THE TRACK AT LAST 377 

do to let these poor exiles of humanity begin to brood 
over a solitude that was to last perhaps forever. How 
could they forget that their dear old Mother Earth 
was already left at an infinite distance behind them, 
and that this distance was becoming greater and greater 
every day? How could they suppose they would ever 
see her again, plunging as they were on the wild wings 
of that flying block deeper and deeper into the sound- 
less depths of interplanetary space ? What reason had 
they even for flattering themselves that Gallia would 
not finally abandon altogether interplanetary space and 
run the endless rounds of the starry universe in search 
of another sun and of a more congenial centre of at- 
traction ? 

Though such thoughts as these were certainly too 
deep for the simple Russian sailors and the merry 
Spaniards, the Captain and his friends could not help 
noticing every now and then a shade of sorrow crossing 
their faces and an expression of regret stealing involun- 
tarily from their eyes. But every symptom of this 
sorrow or this regret, the Captain, the Count, Proco- 
pius, and Ben Zouf set themselves resolutely and upon 
all occasions to banish at once. Without allowing their 
efforts to be noticed, they did everything to cheer up 
their poor companions and to make their life as pleas- 
ant as possible. They taught them reading and writing, 



378 TO THE SUN? 

they set them to work, they gave them time for amuse- 
ment and encouraged them in their fun; they hardly 
left them an idle moment. Skating, the principal 
piece de resistance^ was of immense advantage as an 
exercise at once recreative, exhilarative, most successful 
in dispelling monotony and cheering up the spirits. 

In any of these labors, lessons, or amusements, it 
need hardly be said that old Isaac took no part. In 
fact, he had never showed himself to any one since his 
compulsory arrival at Terre Chaude. But he was not 
dead. A little smoke, continually ascending from a 
funnel of the Hansa^ showed him to be still alive 
and as usual watching his property. The fuel and 
food of course, must have cost him some bitter regrets, 
considering that he could have his board and lodging 
free at the Nina Hive. But he preferred incurring this 
terrible expense to being obliged to leave th^ Uansa, 
In his absence what might not befall his precious cargo? 

The Hans a moreover seemed to be perfectly secured. 
Both vessels had been so disposed of as to be able to 
withstand every hardship of a long winter. Procopius 
was an old hand at such business. By levelling the ice 
under the hull, as is done by winterers in the Arctic 
seas, he allowed it to meet under the keel, thus relieving 
the sides of the vessel from all danger of being crushed 
together by the tremendous pressure. With the rise of 



ON THE TRACK A T LAST 379 

the ice-field, the Dohryna and the Hansa would thus 
also rise; and when thaw-time would come, it was ex- 
pected to be not a very difficult matter to enable them 
to reach their respective water-lines without incurring 
great danger. 

The whole Gallian Sea was now, as far as the sight 
could reach, a solid mass of ice in every direction — 
except one. This was the lake at the mountain foot 
already referred to, separated by a rocky reef from 
the rest of the ocean, and receiving the overflow 
of the incandescent lava. There the water remained 
entirely in a liquid state; even on the outer edges 
a tendency towards the formation of ice-cakes was 
overcome by the neighboring fire. Loud hissings of 
water, wild shrieks of steam, and dense clouds of 
smoke showed the line of immediate contact between 
the two elements, but the whole surface of the lake 
was continually boiling, bubbling, seething, fermenting, 
and enveloped in a fleece of mist. 

In the early part of April the weather changed a 
little; clouds darkened the sky, without, however, 
producing a corresponding increase of cold. This 
showed that the altitude of the mercury depended 
no longer on any particular condition of the atmos- 
phere, or as to its being more or less saturated with 
moisture. Gallia, therefore, no longer imitated the 



380 TO THE SUNf 

circumpolar regions of the Earth which are always 
considerably affected by atmospheric influences, espe- 
cially the sudden shifting of the winds. The thermom- 
eter had now no maximum, no minimum \ the altitude 
never rose beyond a certain degree, which kept on 
steadily diminishing as the asteroid kept steadily with- 
drawing from the great source of light and heat. And 
this action of the thermometric column would still 
keep on, steadily sinking until it should attain the 
limit assigned by Pouillet to the temperature of inter- 
planetary space — about 250° below zero Fahrenheit. 

The darkening of the sky, however, was soon followed 
by a tremendous storm^ not of rain of course, or snow, 
but wind alone. As long as it lasted, the little colony 
could not venture outside ; even inside, the storm pro- 
duced very strange effects by its action on the screen of 
white hot lava that closed one end of Central Hall. 
Generally, like an immense fan-blower, it blew some of 
the lava inwards in great sparks, and saturated the rest 
so much with oxygen as to render the galleries disagree- 
ably hot and even dangerous to life. But very often its 
violence was great enough to tear an opening through 
the sheet of flame and fill the halls with currents of ice- 
cold air which, by reducing the temperature, were gen- 
erally oftener welcomed as highly advantageous than 
otherwise. 



ON THE TRACK AT LAST, 38 1 

On the fourth of April the little moon had so far dis- 
engaged herself from the solar irradiations as to be once 
more visible — to the Gallians' great delight. Ben 
Zouf in particular, the first discoverer, hailed her reap- 
pearance with particular interest. He was continually 
begging every one to notice how the little thing did 
her duty with just the same regularity in revolving 
around Gallia as the old Moon had ever displayed in 
revolving around Mother Earth. 

One cause of disorder — the birds — still troubled 
Alveario di Nina, and was not got rid of without 
considerable difficulty. The gracious reader no doubt 
remembers that the disappearance of cultivatable land 
in Gallia had driven them in great numbers to Gourbi 
Island. There, all, excepting the comparatively few 
that had fallen victims to the war of extermination 
waged on them by Ben Zouf and the others, had found 
pretty safe refuge as long as the fine weather lasted. 
But the great colds bringing snow and ice, and snow 
and ice covering the soil with a crust impenetrable to 
beak or claw, an immense emigration to Terre Chaude 
was the sure consequence — - though seemingly for nc 
other reason than the company of man. Far from 
being afraid of their old enemy, the poor creatures now 
took every opportunity to seek his society. The gar- 
bage and refuse of the little colony thrown out every 



382 TO THE SUNi 

day from the galleries, they instantly gobbled up ; many 
of them even, impelled as much by cold as by hunger, 
were daring enough to force their way into the tunnel 
and to install themselves in the warm galleries of Alve- 
ario di Nina. 

In self-defence these desperate intruders had to be 
driven away, and at this task the colonists did not spare 
themselves. At first, indeed, far from being alarmed, 
they had taken pleasure in protecting their winged guests 
and admiring a tameness that allowed them to take bits 
of foo 1 out of their hands. But the numbers increased so 
rapidly as soon to become a regular invasion. Instead 
of waiting for the food to be offered to them, the starv- 
ing creatures boldly snatched it off the dining-tables of 
Central Hall. Then ^^ Repel or Exterminate ! " became 
the watchword of the dayo Stones, sticks, guns, every 
kind of offensive weapon was employed. No mercy 
was granted, no quarter shown, except now and then in 
sparing a pair to preserve the species, and yet the final 
success was anything but complete. Ben was com- 
mander-in-chief. What a profound strategist he was ! 
The Count said he could give lessons to Von Mohke. 
And when the decisive moment of execution had come, 
when to tremble was destruction and retreat ruin, how 
grandly he rose with the occasion ! How gallantly he 
led the charge ! How scathingly he rebuked the skulk- 



ON THE TRACK AT LAST. 383 

ers ! How he encouraged the timid, restrained the 
rash, rallied the repulsed, reviled the enemy, and 
finally led on to a glorious victory ! All this we must 
leave to the kind reader's imagination, as well as the 
style in which he afterwards cooked all the dead that 
were edible, and especially the fabulous number of a 
certain kind of canvas-back ducks that he contrived 
to put away in what he called his garde-manger. 

The invaders at last, after an immense loss in killed 
and wounded, appearing to think they had got enough 
of it, drew off all their forces in pretty good order, with 
the exception of a few unconquerables that took refuge 
in nooks and crevices through the galleries, from which 
it seemed almost impossible to dislodge them. At least, 
the Gallians did not attempt to do so. Rendered mag- 
nanimous by victory, or, more probably, heartily sick 
of such a dragging warfare, they made no immediate 
attempt to renew the attack. The consequence was that 
in less than a week the few hundred birds that had 
managed to stand their ground soon began to consider 
themselves tenants in fee, and, as such, deemed it their 
bounden duty to keep out all other intruders whatso- 
ever. It must be said that this duty they faithfully per- 
formed. Woe to the luckless fowl that had strayed into 
tlie interior of the Nina Hive ! He was immediately 



set upon by hundreds of beaks and killed or expelled 
without mercy. 

All this led to a curious incident. 

On the morning of April 15, little Nina's voice was 
suddenly heard crying '^ Accor'uomo ! '* (Help ! Help !) 

Ben, recognizing the voice, started in the direction, 
but he was soon passed by Pablo, also running to help 
his little friend. 

*^ Presto ! Presto ! *' they heard her shrieking ; '^ Mi 
ucciden ! " (Quick! quick! they are killing me !) 

Pablo, dashing into the opening, saw half a dozen 
of the largest and fiercest gulls flying wildly around 
the little girl and fiercely attacking something that 
she endeavored to defend. 

Hastily picking up a stick, the boy instantly attacked 
and soon dispersed these daring sea-birds, though not 
without receiving a severe peck or two. 

'^ What 's the matter, Nina? '' he aoked. 

^^Oh I look, Pablo ! " she cried, showing him a bird 
nestling on her breast and half covered by her folding 
arms. 

'^ A pigeon ! '* cried Ben, now rushing in, ''and what 's 
more surprising, a carrier pigeon ! And, by all the 
saints of Montmartre, it has a little bag around its 
neck!" 

A few minutes afterwards, the fluttering little stranger, 




THE RESCUE. 



ON THE TRACK AT LAST. 38$ 

tenderly held in the Captain's hands, was the centre 
of attraction to a council of war assembled around 
the chief table in Central Hall. 

** News from our astronomer of course!'* said he 
as he opened the little bag, which had been somewhat 
injured m the struggle. ^'The sea being no longer 
free, he despatched this pigeon, which naturally came 
here, seeing there was nowhere else to go. I hope he 
has sent his name and address this time ! *' 

The notice, like its predecessors, was short and 
laconic : 

" Gallia. 

Chemin parcouru du ler Mars au ler avril: 39,ooo,OCX) 1. I 
Distance du soleil : 1 10,000,000 1. ! 
Capte Nerina en passant. 
Vivres vont manquer, et — '* 
( Gallia. 

Distance travelled from the first of March to the first of April . 
39,000,000 leagues. 

Distance from the sun : 1 10,000,000 leagues I 
Captured Nerina on the road. 
Provisions giving out^ and — ) 

Here the paper abruptly ended, the rest having been 
torn off by the sea-gulls. 

'^What hard luck!" cried the Captain in despair. 
^'The name and address, the very thing we most 
wanted, is exactly what these accursed birds have de- 
stroyed ! It 's all written in French this time and 



386 TO THE SUN? 

in all probability it 's a Frenchman that wrote it. And 
now not to be able to give the unfortunate man any 
assistance ! ' ' 

Timascheff and Procopius hastened back immedi- 
ately to the scene of the contest, hoping to pick up 
some scrap of paper that might put them on the 
right track. But they returned empty handed, and 
the Captain was disconsolate. 

*^Alas!*^ he cried, ^^ shall we never know where 
to look for this last and most important survivor of 
the Earth?'' 

'^ Oh ! " suddenly exclaimed the joyous tones of little 
Nina standing by. '^ Benni Zufo, look here ! " and she 
pointed to something she had just discovered under 
the bird's left wing. It was a postage stamp, bearirg 
on its face one written word — but that one was enouj h : 

" FORMENTERA. " 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

A WILD RIDE. 

FORMENTERA ! 
The word had a world of meaning for the Captain 
and his friends. This little island then^ the most south- 
ern of the Balearics, was the spot whence the astronomer 
had launched his dispatches. It was even in its neigh- 
borhood that two of them had been picked up. He 
was certainly alive two weeks ago. Was he alive now? 
This last dispatch was without a single comforting ex- 
pression that denoted cheerfulness or satisfaction. No 
more Va bene s or All righf s or Nil desperandum s. It 
was crabbedly written all in French, and the last words 
^^ Provisions giving out^' affected every listener pro- 
foundly. They were the last cry of despair ! 

^*We maybe in time yet! " cried the Captain, '^if 
we start at once for the relief of the poor sufferer ! ' * 

**The poor sufferers more likely,'* replied the Count. 
*^ Captain, I am ready to accompany you ! " 

'^We passed by the site of the Balearics,'' observed 
Procopius, referring- to his chart, *^ without seeing any 

387 



388 TO THE SUNf 

Sign of them. You may have some trouble in finding all 
that remains of Formentera/' 

^^We shall find it, Lieutenant/' cried the Captain, 
*^ if it can be found ! How far is it from here ? " 

^^ Between three and four hundred miles, Captain. 
How do you propose reaching it? '' 

^^ On skates of course. The quickest way, now that 
the sea is solid. Don't you think so, Count ? '* 

^^I'm ready to go whatever way you like, Captain,'* 
answered the Count, who never hesitated when a ques- 
tion of humanity was under discussion. 

'^ Skates won't do," said Procopius quietly. 

^^Why not?" asked his companions. 

*^The cold is excessive, in the first place," replied 
the Lieutenant, pointing to the external minimum ther- 
mometer, ^^as I have just ascertained, being seven or 
eight degrees below zero Fahrenheit. In the second, a 
brisk wind from the south-west renders this cold abso- 
lutely intolerable for any length of time. In the third, 
supposing you were able to endure a hundred miles a 
day, it would take you more than three days to reach 
Formentera. In the fourth, this would require a con- 
siderable quantity of provisions, not only for your- 
selves, but also for the man or men whom you are 
going to relieve — " 

'^We shall start with our knapsacks!" interrupted 



A WILD RIDE. 380 

Servadac, chafed at the methodical Lieutenant's way of 
laying down the impossibilities of the expedition. 

"You may do so," continued Procopius calmly, 
" but every now and then you shall need rest. The ice 
being perfectly flat, you can find no hummock behind 
the shelter of which you might have chance of snatching 
an hour's repose." 

"We shall travel night and day!" cried the ex- 
asperated Captain; "instead of three days we shall 
take but two, perhaps but one, to reach Formentera! " 

"Suppose you do, Captain," resumed Procopius, 
"admitting for the sake of argument that you had 
arrived there in one day, what relief could you afford 
to those you might find dying of hunger and thirst? 
If you ever undertook to bring them here, it would be 
corpses, not living beings, that would arrive in Terre 
Chaude!" 

"At moments like the present, words are useless, 
Lieutenant!" said the Captain, who really could not 
reply to Procopius's cold logic; "all I can say is that 
poor human creatures like ourselves are dying this 
moment of hunger, cold and misery. Can we abandon 
them. Count ? " 

"We cannot ! " replied Timascheff. " Procopius, is 
there no way besides skating by which we can reach 
Formentera ? If there is, let us hear it at once I " 



390 TO THE SUNf 

'^ There is, Father/' answered Procopius slowly, and 
almost lost in thought. ^^ I have no doubt there is ! 
There must be ! I have not hit on it yet, but I 'm 
thinking over it.** 

'* If we only had a sledge ! *' suggested Ben Zouf. 

Procopius started and his eyes flashed, but he said 
nothing. 

''A sledge is easily made,*' said the Count; ''but 
how could we run it? ** 

'' Ice-shoe the horses ! '* said Ben. 

''They could never endure the cold,** said the 
Count. 

" No matter! ** exclaimed the Captain, with decision ; 
"it is our last resource ! Let us have a sledge made as 
quickly — ** 

" It 's already made ! ** interrupted Procopius rapidly, 
and as if inspired. "And the horses are ready too! 
They are even harnessed and can start in an instant ! 
Not Zephyr and Galette though,'* he added, seeing that 
all were looking at him with eyes full of inquiry. " To 
drag a sledge in a storm over a smooth ice-field when 
the temperature is below zero, horse-flesh is but a poor 
motor. We have one swifter, surer, and in all respects 
safer!** 

" Which is — ? *' they all asked. 

" The wind ! " answered Procopius. 



A WILD RIDE. 391 

Certainly the wind. Why not think of it before? 

The Captain had often heard of the famous American 
ice-yachts. The Count had actually seen one in action. 
Starting from West Point on the Hudson, it had made 
New York, a distance of at least fifty miles, in less than 
an hour. The wind was now fortunately blowing a 
pretty stiff gale exactly from the right point. It was 
therefore possible to reach Formentera by means of an 
ice-yacht within a period of at most ten or twelve 
hours. 

An ice-yacht they were not long in constructing — in 
fact, one was already on hand. TYit Dobryna' s little sail- 
boat, about twelve feet long, could easily contain five 
or six persons. By mounting it on a pair of steel sled- 
runners, plenty of which were to be found among the 
ship*s stores, could not a perfect ice-yacht be got ready 
in a few hours ? Besides, when decked over by a sort 
of wooden roof and carefully covered with three or four 
folds of sail-cloth, would it not afford complete shelter 
not only to the explorers themselves but also those 
whom they were to bring back? Sheltered in a vehicle 
of this kind well provided with furs, eatables of differ- 
ent kinds, cordials and other restoratives, besides a little 
portable stove heated by alcohol, the travellers should 
have very little difficulty either in reaching the island 
or returning. 



392 TO THE SUNf 

Returning? Unless the wind changed, how were 
they to return? 

''Never mind about that just now ! " cried the Cap- 
tain, feverish with impatience. ''The chief point at 
present is to get there ! ' ' 

Besides, as Procopius observed, even against an ad- 
verse wind, the ice-yacht, though not protected by a 
rudder against leeway like ordinary boats, could make 
some headway by judicious tacking, the sharp edges of 
its steel runners giving it grip enough on the ice to pre- 
vent too much drift. 

The engineer of the Dobryna, assisted by a few handy 
men, went to work at once and accomplished his task 
after about half a day's labor. The ice-yacht, main- 
tained in a horizontal position by means of a false keel 
mounted on a pair of steel runners belonging to the 
Count's own sledge, covered over by a light roof, and 
even equipped with a long, light, metallic scull to pro- 
tect it against lurching, and well supplied with pro- 
visions, tools, and warm clothing, was soon ready to 
start on her all-important trip. 

Procopius, however, now insisted on taking the 
Count's place. More tnan two should not go — there 
was no telling how many were to return, when crowd- 
ing would be particularly unadvisable. Besides, the 
management of the sails and the steering required a 



A WILD RIDE. 393 

sailor's hand. The Captain, moreover, reminded the 
Count that he was really the proper man to be Vice Gov- 
ernor ; that the passage was dangerous, a sudden squall 
easily bringing on a fatal accident ; that the people at 
Terre Chaude could not be left to themselves ; that he, 
the Captain, would surrender his place with pleasure only 
that, the astronomer being a Frenchman, it was the duty 
of a French officer to be the first to fly to his relief. 

Yielding to these observations, though much against 
his will, the Count at last consented to forego the plea- 
sure of flying at once to the succor of suffering hu- 
manity. 

At first light on the morning of the i6th of April, 
Servadac and Procopius made their way to the ice-yacht, 
surrounded by every member of the little colony, all 
shaking their hands and bidding them God-speed on 
their dangerous but humane voyage. Ben Zouf shed 
tears bitterly, as likewise did little Nina and Pablo ; even 
the Captain himself showed considerable emotion as he 
warmly embraced his friend the Count. But time was 
precious. In a few minutes everything was ready for the 
start ; in a few more, the ice-yacht was fast disappearing 
on the northern horizon. 

Her rig consisted of a mainsail and a jib as large as 
was safe to carry. Her velocity was therefore very great, 
probably forty or fifty miles an hour. Through a thickly 



394 TO THE SUNf 

glazed aperture in front of the little cabin, Procopius 
could easily keep a good look-out and by means of his 
compass steer in almost a bee-line for Formentera. 

Her motion was extremely smooth : no car on the 
best - appointed railroad could approach it. Much 
lighter than she would have been on Earth, her fric- 
tion was almost reduced to zero; she glided on with- 
out rocking, rolling or pitching, and at least four or 
five times faster than any wind-impelled ship had ever 
moved through water. Her passengers sometimes could 
hardly detect any motion at all; at other times they 
felt themselves as if lifted up into the air by some 
powerful balloon ; it was only by looking back that 
they could convince themselves that they were still on 
the ice-field. But they could not look back very far. 
For one moment only could a glimpse be caught of 
the white streaks made by the runners ; in another they 
were enveloped in thick clouds of flying snow-dust. 

It was now easy to remark that the frozen sea pre- 
sented everywhere the same unvarying aspect. No- 
where could a living being of any kind be seen to 
enliven its dreary solitudes. Yet in spite of its dispirit- 
ing effect the dreadful loneliness of the scene was not 
without its poetic side. Even Procopius's cold eye of 
science kindled with a gloomy enthusiasm over this 
materialized realization of his wildest calculations. 



A WILD RIDE. 395 

But the Captain's artistic sense actually revelled in 
spite of himself in the contemplation of horrors which, 
far from depressing his imagination and emotion, actu- 
ally enkindled both. Perhaps it was the maddening 
sense of terrific velocity that raised our friends to a 
high pitch of excitement ; perhaps it was a sense of 
utter dependence amid the weird surroundings of such 
a novel scene that drew them more closely together. 
The red sun, dropping from a black sky, set in a sea 
of solid fire on the right. The yacht's gigantic shadow 
tore madly after her on the left. Even in the dark our 
friends could almost hear its shrieks of agony at the 
idea of being left all alone in such a land of deso- 
lation. Then the pitchy sky instantly flashed out in 
millions of golden stars glittering with supernatural 
brilliancy. But, seated in the little cabin, the two 
friends required no light to know each other's place. 
As if obeying an involuntary attraction, they drew 
closely together ; their hands unconsciously sought each 
other, and a silent pressure said infinitely more than 
mere words could express- 

An occasional glance at the new Polaris was sufficient 
guide through this exciting night. With wind a-beam 
and the course almost directly north, steering was a 
comparatively easy matter in spite of the yacht's tre- 
mendous velocity. 



39^ TO THE SUN? 

This gave Procopius an opportunity to reflect on 
another subject that still kept obtruding itself on his 
attention. Gallia's velocity had diminished twenty 
millions of leagues during the month of March, strictly 
in accordance with Kepler's second law. But her dis- 
tance from the sun having increased by thirty-two mil- 
lions of leagues in the meantime, she now found her- 
self among the Minor Planets that lie between Mars 
and Jupiter. One of these, Nerina, she had passed 
even close enough to capture and carry off. So far 
the astronomer's calculations had proved themselves 
to be perfectly correct. Now was there not good 
reason to expect that he had also succeeded in cal- 
culating the exact orbit that Gallia was following, 
and that he could therefore tell them if she was ever 
to return to her starting-point? Even less important 
information than this, the Captain said he would be 
satisfied with for the present. For instance, when 
would Gallia be likely to reach her aphelion — in other 
words, how long was this fearful winter to last ? 

The sudden appearance of the sun on the left puts 
a premature end to this conversation, and suggests 
the propriety of a short consultation regarding the 
mode of prosecuting the remainder of the journey. 
At a rough calculation they must now be very near 
the object of their expedition, and a reconnoissance 




LOOK! LOOK! 



A WILD RIDE, 397 

is therefore necessary. The yacht is laid to for a 
little while to take in a few reefs; when she starts 
again her speed is so reduced that in spite of the 
extreme cold the travellers can look around them a 
little. 

The icy sea is as deserted as ever. Not a speck of 
any kind relieves the magnificent monotony. 

^* We 're probably a little too far west for Formen- 
tera/* suggests the Captain, examining the chart. 

'^ Likely enough, '* answers Procopius, *^for, exactly 
as I would have done at sea, I have kept to windward 
of the island. Let us turn a point or two eastwardly." 

''All right/* says the Captain, keeping a sharp look- 
out from the prow in spite of the cutting cold. 

He does not waste his time looking for a trace of 
smoke in the sky — the poor astronomer is out of 
fuel as well as food. It is the black pinnacle of 
some rock emerging from the ice-field that his eye 
eagerly strains itself to catch on the horizon. 

Suddenly he starts and puts the glass to his eye. 

''Here! Procopius!'* he cries as if in transport. 
"Come instantly! — Take this glass and look where 1 
point ! Don't you see something like framework twink- 
ling against the sky ! '' 

"Certainly! " answers Procopius. "It is the astrono- 
mer's watch-tower ! *' 



398 TO THE SUNf 

Further doubt is impossible. The yacht's course, 
slightly modified, carries the travellers rapidly towards 
the signalled object. It grows larger and larger. It is 
a pile of rocks — surmounted by a framework of wood 
and iron — an observatory — something flutters from its 
summit — it is a rag of blue bunting — all that remains 
of the Tricolor ! 

A cry of agony breaks from the Captain. 

No smoke rises from the rocks ! No fire, and the 
cold intense ! Are they hastening to a tomb ? 

The sails are dropped, the yacht's momentum giving 
force enough to make the rest of the distance. 

On the top of the rocks, at the foot of the observa- 
tory, is a small framework cottage, the door closed and 
the windows shut air-tight. 

To jump from the yacht, scale the rocks, and reach 
the cottage, costs the Captain a few seconds. He 
knocks loudly. No answer. He calls loudly. No 
reply. 

He makes a signal to the Lieutenant. A vigorous 
push from both bursts open the worm-eaten door. 

In the entry nothing visible but two doors, one on the 
right, the other on the left. 

The left door is burst in, the chamber entered, the 
windows thrown open. Nothing visible, except figures, 
diagrams and drawings scratched on the bare walls. 




IS IT TOO LATE? 



A WILD RIDE. 399 

The door on the right opens at a touch. Darkness, 
complete. Silence, absolute. He is either escaped, or 
dead ! 

Procopius, flinging open a shutter, admits the light. 

Their eyes fall first on the hearth. Nothing there, 
save some white ashes, cold as ice. 

In the dark corner to the right a bed. On the bed a 
human body. 

^^Open the other window, Procopius,'' whispers the 
Captain softly. 

^^Stiif as marble ! " he moans in agony as he touches 
the body. '^ Frozen and starved ! Frozen and starved ! " 

Procopius leans earnestly over the face, turns the 
clothes down a little, tries to feel for the pulsations of 
the heart. 

A few moments pass — years of anguish and suspense ! 

'^This man lives!" he cries suddenly. ^^ Quick! 
Captain, give me the flask! " 

With some trouble they succeed in pouring a few 
drops of a powerful restorative into the mouth of the 
unconscious sufferer. 

For some seconds the silence of a midnight grave per- 
vades the room. Then a faint sigh is heard — and the 
lips part as if trying to utter something ! 

Servadac and Procopius, stooping, listen intently. 

^' Gallia? " issues from the lips in a spent whisper. 



400 TO THE SUNr 

^^ Gallia! Yes! Yes! Gallia!" replies the Cap. 
tain eagerly. '' What of Gallia? " 

^'Gallia's my comet — mine!'^ comes from the lips 
as faintly as the last words of a departing spirit. 

That 's all. These words uttered, the marble face 
resumes its rigidity, and the heart's pulsations are 
felt no moie. 

Wasting time in applying restoratives in this dreary 
freezing cabin is not to be thought of. The friends 
instantly form their resolution. In a few moments 
the body of the dying astronomer, his few philosophical 
and astronomical instruments, his clothes, papers and an 
old door that he has used as a blackboard, are all care- 
fully stowed away in the ice-yacht. The wind has been 
slowly hauling round and is now in almost a favorable 
point. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the friends 
instantly set sail, but it is fully thirty-six hours later 
when the ice-yacht strikes the rocks of Terre Chaude. 

The Gallians, headed by Ben Zouf, are drawn up in 
orderly array and impatiently await the Count's signal 
to burst into frantic cheers of welcome to the two bold 
companions. But a warning gesture of the Captain is 
well understood, and implicitly obeyed. 

During the long return a block of marble could not 
have been more motionless than the astronomer's body. 
Is he living or dead? No one can say. Lifted care- 



A WILD RIDE, 401 

fully out of the yacht by the Captain and Procopius, he 
is gently carried up a practicable road that has been 
thoughtfully constructed by the Count during their 
absence. In front of the procession move quietly and 
silently Pablo and little Nina. On each side, in 
single file, march the Russians and the Italians, hats 
off, heads down, and lips moving as if in prayer for a 
departed soul. Torches illumine the dark walls of the 
galleries, guiding the footsteps securely through the 
devious labyrinth of the volcano. 

Thus wound the solemn cortege into the heart of the 
mountain, reverent, mournful, slow, to the couch where 
they piously laid him. 



END OF TO THE SUN? 



O N ^ ^^ 



^/;eO-^..^o/*'*^\n^ 









^.>->^. 



.> '^ 



•> 'V'^ly 



.0 o^ 



o.^.--->^^^v^ %;>-^y^^ 






A 



^ ^/>. 









gO- 



'V"-. 



^-^^\..^ 



'0^ 



C' 



•^^^ v-^'^ =%< 



/ -^^^ 






^??:^\\ 






^>-. -<. -'' .\\o^c/<^'^^^^V^ 



V I « z> '-^^ 









A 



N 






^ <V^' 



"^ ^^^^Z 



X^^^. 



\ 






v*'.-V^;..,,v*-»'V^ 



^>-^^, 



V 



^^^'^ .^'^, 



V ^^ v;^^,* ,V^' -^^ ■^.; 




", > 



\ * 



/ ' r. 






-0^ 



■^^ 



x^^^-^ V.,, 

a"^ *. xP c>, •* -^ 




0^ 



o>' 



s * * 



\f^ ,<< 










-^^^ .V 









.^'^^^^ 



-;» -< -f^ v^' 



L^ -^ ^^ 



^, 



.^^'^ 






." .^"^.^ 



r^ 



^0 













^ O 






•OO^ 



- t^ v^^ 






^-^^ . 



.0 o. 



'> 

•^ ^ 



"^. " 






.K> 






-,'X. 



'Irf -1 






< ^ . V - 



-7- 









'^ : ^°.. 










^^■^^ \^ !.!' */^0-'' ' * ' ' -0*^'', 



.«> ^c*. 



y.^^ S''>^^; 



-s^ ^_